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Tag Archives | Poetry

Where She Went

I love book spine poet­ry, and it’s a great way to get young writ­ers to engage with both books and poet­ry-writ­ing. Check out your own shelves and see what sto­ries emerge.

Here are some of my own efforts to show you how easy it can be.


Writing Road Trip | Book Spine Poetry - Where She Went | Lisa Bullard

Where She Went

Look­ing for Alas­ka
Chas­ing Ver­meer
Track­ing dad­dy down
Look­ing for Ali­bran­di
In search of Mock­ing­bird
Where the kiss­ing nev­er stops


Writing Road Trip | Book Spine Poetry - Where She Went | Lisa Bullard

Reality check

Real­i­ty check:
Don’t you know there’s a war on?


Writing Road Trip | Book Spine Poetry - Where She Went | Lisa Bullard

You Split

You
Split
Just like that
As easy as falling off the face of the Earth
Down the rab­bit hole
Absolute­ly, pos­i­tive­ly not
Okay for now


Writing Road Trip | Book Spine Poetry - Where She Went | Lisa Bullard

The Sky is Every­where

The sky is every­where
I’ll be there
For­ev­er


Check out this post by Travis Jonker for more infor­ma­tion about book spine poems. Need more inspi­ra­tion, check out the Book Spine Poem Gal­leries from 2011, 2013, and 2014.

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Aimée Bissonette

Aimee Bissonette's Self on the Shelf

Aimée Bis­sonet­te’s selec­tions for Self on the Shelf

A few days ago, I scanned my many book­shelves in antic­i­pa­tion of writ­ing this piece. My charge was to assem­ble a small stack of books that had sig­nif­i­cance to me.  Per­haps, I thought, I’ll write about my love for mys­ter­ies. After all, I spent count­less hours as a young girl devour­ing the Hardy Boys and Nan­cy Drew mys­ter­ies before mov­ing on to Agatha Christie, Tony Hiller­man, and Sara Paret­sky. Or maybe, I thought, I could write about my love for mem­oir. To me, well-craft­ed mem­oir is a gift.  It pro­vides an insider’s view — the weight of a per­son­al sto­ry that expands my knowl­edge and under­stand­ing of events and expe­ri­ences that are for­eign to me. 

Both mys­tery and mem­oir would have been fun to write about and each would have giv­en some insight into how books have shaped my life. I know, though, if I’m going to be hon­est, with me it all comes down to poet­ry.

I have loved poet­ry from the begin­ning and I have writ­ten poet­ry across the years: in ele­men­tary school where hol­i­days were always a favorite top­ic; as a teenag­er and in col­lege where the pre­dom­i­nant theme was rela­tion­ships; and as an adult with a strong bent toward nature writ­ing.  And because poet­ry was always a big part of my life, I shared it with my daugh­ters, cul­ti­vat­ing a love of poet­ry in them that lasts to this day. 

Which books mat­tered most? There are so many — it’s hard to say. Here’s a small sam­pling, though, that made a dif­fer­ence for me.

As you see in the pho­to, my first book – the book at the top of the stack – has no cov­er and no spine. It did once, of course, but I have no mem­o­ry of that. I am sure it suf­fered wear and tear in my hands and the hands of my six sib­lings. It also endured many cross coun­try moves.

Why is this book spe­cial? This book was my mom’s when she was a lit­tle girl. It’s a 1938 edi­tion of 200 Best Poems for Boys and Girls com­piled by Mar­jorie Bar­rows for the Whit­man Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny. When this book was final­ly passed down to me, I didn’t give it up. 

As a girl, I read and reread the poems in this book. I mem­o­rized and recit­ed them. The book is full of well-known and less­er known children’s poems about frogs and trees and pirates and gob­lins. It made my imag­i­na­tion soar.  It also intro­duced me to the wry, clever poems of Ogden Nash whose “The Tale of Cus­tard the Drag­on” is still a favorite. It starts like this:

Belin­da lived in a lit­tle white house,
With a lit­tle black kit­ten and a lit­tle gray mouse,
And a lit­tle yel­low dog and a lit­tle red wag­on,
And a realio, trulio, lit­tle pet drag­on.

Now the name of the lit­tle black kit­ten was Ink,
And the lit­tle gray mouse, she called her Blink,
And the lit­tle yel­low dog was sharp as Mus­tard,
But the drag­on was a cow­ard, and she called him Cus­tard. 

Tale of Custard the Dragon

As you might imag­ine, a rol­lick­ing sto­ry unfolds in this poem reveal­ing that all isn’t as it seems and Cus­tard plays a sur­pris­ing role! I love to share this poem with kids when I do school vis­its. It sparks laugh­ter and con­ver­sa­tion. Look it up, you’ll love it, too.

The next book in the stack was anoth­er child­hood favorite, A.A. Milne’s Now We Are Six. I long ago lost my own copy of this book (remem­ber the mul­ti­ple cross coun­try moves?). The one in the pho­to is the copy I bought for my daugh­ters when they were lit­tle.  I have mem­o­ries of sneak­ing away to a qui­et place with this and oth­er books — not an easy task in a house with sev­en kids.  Lucky for me, one of the last hous­es we lived in was a refur­bished board­ing house. It had a big walk in linen clos­et that I treat­ed as my per­son­al read­ing room. I’d gath­er my books, pull the string on the light fix­ture, shut the door against the noise, and lie among the blan­kets and pil­lows, relat­ing might­i­ly to Milne’s “Soli­tude”:

I have a house where I go
When there’s too many peo­ple,
I have a house where I go
Where no one can be;
I have a house where I go,
Where nobody ever says “No”;
Where no one says any­thing — so
There is no one but me.

The next two books in the pho­to are from a wide shelf of poet­ry books my hus­band and I shared with our daugh­ters as they grew up. The Ran­dom House Book of Poet­ry for Chil­dren includes poems by so many won­der­ful children’s poets. Its pages are dog-eared and smudged. We read it over and over. It makes me think of blan­kets and paja­mas and cud­dling on the couch. Good mem­o­ries.

Our daugh­ters also loved every one of Shel Silverstein’s books. This copy of Where the Side­walk Ends (which long ago lost its dust jack­et) shows how well loved his books are. We still rem­i­nisce about our favorites. Does any­one remem­ber “Warn­ing” fea­tur­ing a Sharp Toothed Snail? My girls still laugh about that one. One of my favorites is “Hug O’ War”:

I will not play at tug o’war.
I’d rather play at hug o’war.
Where every­one hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where every­one gig­gles
And rolls on the rug.
Where every­one kiss­es,
And every­one grins,
And every­one cud­dles,
And every­one wins. 

Not a bad sen­ti­ment for today’s times, huh!

The remain­ing books in the stack are impor­tant for many rea­sons. Among oth­er things, they rep­re­sent my love for read­ing and writ­ing nature poems. Morn­ing Earth is by John Cad­dy, a won­der­ful poet and nat­u­ral­ist who taught the first poet­ry class I dared take at The Loft. For years, John emailed a poem a day to teach­ers and class­rooms all over the world. In doing so, he made poet­ry — and nature — more acces­si­ble to kids. Here is one of his poems, titled “Novem­ber 26”:

In a snowy field
three jun­cos feed.
Their weight curves down
the stalks of weeds
as they pluck the fuel
the fire needs.

The next books in the stack, Poets of Boca Grande and Amethyst and Agate, con­tain poems from two of my favorite nat­ur­al places: Florida’s gulf coast and Lake Supe­ri­or.  I often buy poet­ry books when I trav­el.

The final books, The Cuckoo’s Haiku (a gift from a writer friend) and Song of the Water Boat­man, are books I use with stu­dents when I am vis­it­ing schools. Read­ing and writ­ing short poems is a great warm up exer­cise for young writ­ers. I also use these books as men­tor texts for my own writ­ing. If one day I could write one poem as love­ly as any of Joyce Sidman’s, I’d be thrilled.

So, that’s my stack. A small sam­pling, but I am sure you get the idea.  I love poet­ry – its spare lines and lush descrip­tion; its humor; the emo­tion it evokes. And I know read­ing and study­ing poet­ry help me write pic­ture books.  The notion that every word counts is true to both, as is the impor­tance of line breaks and page turns.  

I still love a good mys­tery. And if you know me, you’ve like­ly heard me rec­om­mend a mem­oir or two, but at the heart of all my read­ing, writ­ing, and inspi­ra­tion is poet­ry. I feel blessed to have it in my life.        

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The Night the Forest Came to Town

The Night the Forest Came to TownThe Night the For­est Came to Town
Charles Ghigna
illus­trat­ed by Annie Wilkin­son
Orca Book Pub­lish­ers, 2018
ISBN 978−1−4598−1650−3

A city can be all hard sur­faces, con­crete, brick, pave­ment, and glass. Adults can be pre­oc­cu­pied with their devices. Bill­boards, street lights, every kind of dis­trac­tion. There’s a dis­tinct sep­a­ra­tion from nature, a dis­con­nect.

In this semi-mag­i­cal book, nature blows into town overnight, wind-borne seeds take root, and birds and ani­mals fol­low. A cen­ter spread gives us a glimpse into apart­ment win­dows where we see indi­vid­u­als engaged in their arts, notic­ing what’s chang­ing out­side their win­dows.

Ghig­na’s rhyming poet­ry invites read­ers and sto­ry­tellers to turn the pages. 

Beneath the swirling shroud of night
A fer­tile field was found
Where once there was a vacant lot
new seedlings held their ground.”

He helps us notice details with his descrip­tive lan­guage, his rev­er­ence for nature.

Wilkin­son cre­ates a shad­ow-filled, deeply-toned night­time city. Her tex­tures evoke a tac­tile expe­ri­ence. Touch these pages, reach into nature, appre­ci­ate the star-filled sky, the life-sprout­ing rain, the charm­ing ani­mals. But it’s the panoply of flow­ers, sophis­ti­cat­ed but rem­i­nis­cent of those a child would draw that tie togeth­er text and images into a sooth­ing, con­tem­pla­tive sto­ry of the dif­fer­ence nature brings into our lives.

Com­bine the read­ing of this book with plan­ning for a school or com­mu­ni­ty gar­den. Plant a flower seed that will grow indoors and can be tak­en home once it’s estab­lished. Take pho­tos of your neigh­bor­hood and print them out on full sheets of paper so stu­dents can add their own flow­ers and ani­mals and trees. Then have them try a poem with Ghig­na’s struc­ture to tell the sto­ry of their own vision of the for­est com­ing to town.

This is a charm­ing book.

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Pairing Verse with Nonfiction

Why write non­fic­tion in verse? If you do, is it still non­fic­tion? Good ques­tions in a time when gen­res are expand­ing.

Siege by Roxane OrgillI’ve used verse in two non­fic­tion sto­ries: a pic­ture book, Jazz Day: The Mak­ing of a Famous Pho­to­graph, and a book for ages ten and up, Siege: How Wash­ing­ton Kicked the British out of Boston and Launched a Rev­o­lu­tion (Can­dlewick Press). As to why I chose poet­ry over prose, read on. And yes, to me, the sto­ry of the Siege of Boston in one hun­dred poems is non­fic­tion (although my pub­lish­er dis­agrees; more on that lat­er.)

First, a word on my tastes as a read­er, and there­fore, writer. I like con­cise writ­ing. I pre­fer acces­si­ble over aca­d­e­m­ic and would rather read a book of man­age­able length than a heavy tome.

It was 1776, by David McCul­lough, that start­ed me on the Rev­o­lu­tion thing. Four hun­dred pages, and it reads like a sto­ry. I’d nev­er heard of the ten-month stand­off between George Washington’s mili­tia-turned-army in Cam­bridge and the British in Boston. It seemed to me that the rev­o­lu­tion start­ed there, rather than with the bat­tles in Lex­ing­ton and Con­cord.

Curi­ous, I dove into Washington’s Papers, which, dur­ing the years I spent research­ing Siege, became increas­ing­ly avail­able online, and are now, thanks to an agree­ment between the Nation­al Archives and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Vir­ginia Press, ful­ly acces­si­ble at founders.archives.gov. What a trove! I got into the Gen­er­al Orders, issued as Wash­ing­ton was putting togeth­er the first Amer­i­can army, and I couldn’t pull myself out. The Orders are sur­pris­ing­ly read­able, loaded with detail and even, if you read close­ly, feel­ing, includ­ing the Commander’s despair over the unruli­ness of his fledg­ling out­fit. “Fill up old nec­es­saries” (out­door toi­lets)… exe­cute prop­er­ly the reveille upon the drum… no fir­ing of guns to start a fire for cook­ing….”

Won­der­ful, pre­cise, con­cise lan­guage. Washington’s words prompt­ed me to con­sid­er how I might take a dif­fer­ent tack. I have long been attract­ed to alter­na­tive meth­ods of telling a true sto­ry: graph­ic nov­els like Perse­po­lis, verse nov­els like Allan Wolf’s The Watch that Ends the Night, about the Titan­ic, and the musi­cal Hamil­ton. Impressed as I am by Wolf (the ice­berg is a char­ac­ter! Bril­liant!), I want­ed to stay clos­er to the truth.

Persepolis, The Watch That Ends the Night, Hamilton

Then I hap­pened upon a review of a rev­o­lu­tion­ary-war book for adults which used the phrase “cacoph­o­ny of voic­es.” An “ah-ha” moment. I would give an account of the siege from many points of view: major fig­ures such as Wash­ing­ton, his wife, Martha, and the book­seller-turned-artillery­man Hen­ry Knox, but also less­er knowns: The Commander’s favorite aide-de-camp Joseph Reed, his ser­vant-slave, William, a pri­vate; a lieu­tenant… while draw­ing on as many pri­ma­ry sources as I could. Rich mate­r­i­al, irre­sistible. Con­sid­er Reed’s plain­tive, telling com­ment in a let­ter to his wife: “Events here are very uncer­tain; don’t think of me too much or too lit­tle!”

Poet­ry brought imme­di­a­cy, and the inten­si­ty of wartime. Verse’s loose­ness allowed me choic­es over char­ac­ters and events. I didn’t have to find every pri­vate, just one who suit­ed my lit­er­ary pur­pose, like Samuel, whose diary told me of the mun­dan­i­ty of war as he penned, day after day, “noth­ing much hap­pened.” I wouldn’t need to cov­er every skir­mish, and there were a great many, just the whop­per on Ploughed Hill where they tried to stop a can­non­ball with their feet. I could do the unex­pect­ed, like use an alpha­bet poem to con­vey how much stuff the British Army left behind when it fled.

Orgill OrganizationVerse freed me to write my sto­ry.

But I was not entire­ly free; I was restrict­ed by the rules of non­fic­tion. It’s impor­tant for read­ers to know if a book is true, so I was care­ful to note the sources of every poem. I used quotes where pos­si­ble and where they didn’t dis­rupt the poet­ry. Every event, set­ting, num­ber, and char­ac­ter in Siege is real — except one. In a book for chil­dren about adults, I want­ed to include a child. Although I locat­ed sev­er­al accounts of boys who served in the war, none of the them was active in this peri­od. I took a leap across the non­fic­tion divide and cre­at­ed a boy ser­vant who was a com­pos­ite of sev­er­al real boys.

Per­haps that’s why my pub­lish­er chose to call the book a nov­el, I don’t know. To me it’s well-researched non­fic­tion in verse. For­tu­nate­ly for writ­ers and read­ers there is a place called children’s books in which writ­ing and pub­lish­ing such a thing — by what­ev­er name — is pos­si­ble.

[Orgill-Rox­ane-bio]

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On the Way to East Dene

Come Hither by Walter de la MareOne day dur­ing this drea­ry Vir­ginia win­ter, I came across a talk by Susan Coop­er, giv­en at Sim­mons Col­lege in 1980. The talk was titled, “Nahum Tarune’s Book.” To explain the title, she begins by quot­ing an aston­ish­ing pas­sage from the intro­duc­tion of Come Hith­er by Wal­ter de la Mare, an anthol­o­gy of poet­ry first pub­lished in 1923:

In my rov­ings and ram­blings as a boy I had often skirt­ed the old stone house in the hol­low. But my first clear remem­brance of it is of a hot summer’s day. I had climbed to the crest of a hill and stood look­ing down on its grey walls and chim­neys as if out of a dream. And as if out of a dream already famil­iar to me.

My real inten­tion in set­ting out from home that morn­ing had been to get to a place called East Dene. My moth­er had often spo­ken to me of East Dene — of its trees and waters and green pas­tures, and the rare birds and flow­ers to be found there. Ages ago, she told me an ances­tor of our fam­i­ly had dwelt in this place.

Susan Coop­er came to Come Hith­er when she was four­teen. She kept a copy of “this won­der for thir­ty years and must have turned to it at least as many times each year. It is my tal­is­man, my haunt­ing: a dis­til­la­tion of all the books to which I’ve respond­ed most deeply …”

I own a few de la Mare poet­ry col­lec­tions—Songs of Child­hood (1902) and Pea­cock Pie (1913). His work is mys­te­ri­ous and ethe­re­al, earn­ing him the man­tle “poet of dusk.” Coop­er hoped to cap­ture de la Mare’s mag­ic in her own work. (Her nov­el The Dark Is Ris­ing won a New­bery Hon­or, and The Grey King was a New­bery Medal­ist — I’d say she’s done fair­ly well in the mag­ic depart­ment.)

How fast did I order Come Hith­er? And when it came, this 800-page brick of a book, I leafed straight to the intro­duc­tion, sink­ing deeply into the dreamy prose. Simon, the “rov­ings and ram­blings” boy, describes the old stone house:

It was nev­er the same for two hours togeth­er. I have seen it gath­ered close up in its hol­low in the livid and cop­pery gloom of a storm; crouched like a hare in win­ter under a mask of snow; dark and silent beneath the chang­ing sparkle of the stars; and like a palace out of an Ara­bi­an tale in the milky radi­ance of the moon. Thrae was the name inscribed on its gate­way.

Simon meets the old lady of the house, Miss Taroone, who tells him of Sure Vine, which Simon believed was an ances­tral man­sion. The maid men­tioned vil­lages called Ten Laps, and how he might get to East Dene: through the quar­ry, by the pits, “and then you come to a Wall. And you climb over.” Then Simon hears of the boy Nahum Tarune. Explor­ing Nahum’s room in the stone tow­er, Simon is amazed by the fos­sils, rocks, nests, clocks, mod­el ships, strange musi­cal instru­ments, and a human skele­ton. Book­cas­es cov­er the walls.

He digs out an old vol­ume with Nahum’s hand-print­ed title: Theother­worlde. Inside, Nahum had copied poems — Shake­speare, Chaucer, Blake, Poe. Simon is not impressed. “‘Poet­ry!’ I would scoff to myself, and would shut up the cov­ers of any such book with a kind of yawn inside me.” But then he begins to read.

I remem­ber see­ing Come Hith­er in my small ele­men­tary school library, the same edi­tion I have now, print­ed in 1957 with dec­o­ra­tions by War­ren Chap­pell. Hun­gry for sto­ries back then, I had no inter­est in poems. In high school, I grew slow­ly into poet­ry, falling hard for Frost, Sand­burg, and, espe­cial­ly Edgar Lee Mas­ters’ Spoon Riv­er Anthol­o­gy.

Soon Simon does what Nahum Tarune did so many years ago — he copies the poems he likes best. He vis­its Thrae many times, often stay­ing late. Once Miss Taroone warns him to leave: “There’s a heavy dew tonight, and the owls are busy.” Then comes the inevitable day when Simon must go to school and leave Thrae for good. But he keeps his book of poet­ry.

Susan Coop­er points out the ran­dom notes that Simon scat­ters between the poems like coins. Ben Jonson’s “The Witch­es’ Song” spurred four dense pages of notes on the folk­lore and old names of plants. The next time I pick cat mint, I’ll think “Robin-run-in-the-hedge” instead. The intro­duc­tion acts as a frame sto­ry — Simon copy­ing the poems Nahum copied which ulti­mate­ly became the book Come Hith­er. Like poet­ry, the frame sto­ry can be read on many lev­els, the mean­ing nev­er the same twice.

Simon doesn’t see Nahum because, as Coop­er clar­i­fies, “he is all of us.” Nahum Tarune is an ana­gram of human nature. Thrae is earth, Ten Laps are the plan­ets, Sure Vine is the uni­verse. Miss Taroone is prob­a­bly Moth­er Nature. And East Dene? Des­tiny.

I could see why Coop­er dipped into Come Hith­er “some­times for solace, some­times for sun­shine.” This great col­lec­tion of words that Simon learns to read “very slow­ly, so as ful­ly and qui­et­ly to fill up the time allowed for each line and to lis­ten to its music,” to see even com­mon and famil­iar things dif­fer­ent­ly from the actu­al object. That is the pow­er of poet­ry. On our way to East Dene, poet­ry helps us climb over the Wall.

April is Nation­al Poet­ry Month. Teach­ers every­where will be intro­duc­ing chil­dren to the works of Valerie Worth, David McCord, Shel Sil­ver­stein, Jack Pre­lut­sky, Nik­ki Grimes, and many oth­ers. I’ll be read­ing Spoon Riv­er Anthol­o­gy for the first time since high school, while wait­ing for a spring night when the dew is heavy, and the owls are busy.

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Books Are Our Emissaries

Dinner at the Panda PalaceAs authors, we send our books out into the world and, if we’re lucky, they con­nect us to good peo­ple whose paths we would­n’t oth­er­wise cross.

For 28 years, Din­ner at the Pan­da Palace has been my excel­lent emis­sary. 

Din­ner at the Pan­da Palace start­ed as a sim­ple count­ing and sort­ing book with lots of ani­mals and a par­ty atmos­phere to make the learn­ing fun.  By the time it was done, it was a book of wel­come, as a tiny mouse comes knock­ing at the door, ask­ing “Is there room for one more?” It’s this part of the sto­ry that res­onates most with read­ers and has led to so many won­der­ful con­nec­tions over the years.

The book has con­nect­ed me to fam­i­lies:

Par­ents and chil­dren write me let­ters and, much to my delight, send pho­tos and draw­ings.

The book has con­nect­ed me to teach­ers:

Maryann Wick­ett, recip­i­ent of the 1996 Pres­i­den­tial Award for Excel­lence in Math­e­mat­ics Teach­ing, wrote two arti­cles shar­ing her and her stu­dents’ expan­sive ideas on the math con­cepts in the book.  Two decades after her first arti­cle appeared, she let me know she’d be read­ing the book to chil­dren in Kenya, where she was going part­ly on a human­i­tar­i­an mis­sion, part­ly as a tourist.  “Pan­da is for the human­i­tar­i­an part,” she wrote.

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The book has con­nect­ed me to reli­gious lead­ers and edu­ca­tors:

Ser­e­na Evans Beeks, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the Epis­co­pal Dio­cese of Los Ange­les wrote, “Din­ner at the Pan­da Palace has been rec­om­mend­ed as a chapel book for Epis­co­pal schools and preschools — per­haps not what you intend­ed when you wrote it, but the min­istry of hos­pi­tal­i­ty shines through it!”

At The Brooke Jack­man Lit­er­a­cy Foun­da­tion’s Read-a-Thon at Barnes & Noble in New York. The young man help­ing me out is D’Andre Lee, a cast mem­ber of Kinky Boots on Broad­way.

Helen Singer, Ear­ly Child­hood Librar­i­an at the Rodeph Sholom School in New York City wrote, “Din­ner at the Pan­da Palace…ties in beau­ti­ful­ly with the Jew­ish con­cept of “Hachnasat Orchim,” wel­com­ing guests or the stranger into your home, as well as with the val­ues of kind­ness and inclu­sion.”

As writ­ers, we nev­er know which minds a book will enrich, which hearts a book will touch, what con­nec­tions will be made.  I’m grate­ful to have a book that has con­nect­ed me to such good peo­ple. In Mr. Pan­da’s words,

No mat­ter how many, no mat­ter how few,
there will always be room at the Palace for you.

My thanks to Wind­ing Oak, pub­lish­ers of Bookol­o­gy, for shar­ing this essay cel­e­brat­ing the 28th anniver­sary of Din­ner at the Pan­da Palace.

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Poetry Books That Celebrate
African American History and Culture

Poet­ry and the spo­ken word have promi­nent places in African Amer­i­can cul­ture, due at least in part to a strong oral tra­di­tion that has been passed down through gen­er­a­tions. Con­sid­er includ­ing poems from the books below in your read-alouds this month, and the year ahead, as a way to high­light the con­tri­bu­tions of African Amer­i­cans to our nation’s his­to­ry and cul­ture. These pic­ture books offer options for intro­duc­ing your audi­ences (of any age) to the works of some out­stand­ing African Amer­i­can writ­ers and illus­tra­tors.

Brothers & Sisters Family Poems  

Broth­ers and Sis­ters: Fam­i­ly Poems
Writ­ten by Eloise Green­field
Illus­trat­ed by Jan Spivey Gilchrist
Harper­Collins Children’s Books, 2009

This book cel­e­brates the uni­ver­sal joys and chal­lenges of being a part of a fam­i­ly, includ­ing thoughts on rec­on­cil­ing griev­ances, get­ting along with old­er, younger, or step sib­lings, and being a twin. Just about every­one who has a broth­er or sis­ter can prob­a­bly find some­thing that res­onates with them among the poems in this book.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy  

Thir­teen Ways of Look­ing at a Black Boy
Writ­ten by Tony Med­i­na
Illus­trat­ed by 13 dif­fer­ent artists
Pen­ny Can­dy Books, 2018

Tony Med­i­na wrote the poems in this book in tan­ka form, a kind of Japan­ese poem that starts out like haiku (three lines with five, sev­en, and five syl­la­bles respec­tive­ly) but then adds two more lines with sev­en syl­la­bles each. Kids will find many of the poems relat­able, with top­ics such as miss­ing the bus (“Athlete’s Broke Bus Blues”) and want­i­ng to be a rap star (“Givin’ Back to the Com­mu­ni­ty”).

Pass It On  

Pass It On: African Amer­i­can Poet­ry for Chil­dren
Select­ed by Wade Hud­son
Illus­trat­ed by Floyd Coop­er
Scholas­tic Inc., 1993

This col­lec­tion includes beau­ti­ful­ly illus­trat­ed works by pro­lif­ic poets such as Langston Hugh­es, Gwen­dolyn Brooks, Nik­ki Gio­van­ni, Eloise Green­field, and Nik­ki Grimes. A theme of deter­mi­na­tion emerges from a num­ber of the selec­tions includ­ing: “I Can,” “Mid­way,” “The Dream Keep­er,” and “Lis­ten Chil­dren.”

Poems in the Attic

 

Poems in the Attic
Writ­ten by Nik­ki Grimes
Illus­trat­ed by Eliz­a­beth Zunon

For this book, Grimes drew on her own expe­ri­ence mov­ing fre­quent­ly as a child and rely­ing on writ­ing to help her cope. The book is a fic­tion­al account of a child who grew up with par­ents serv­ing in the U.S. mil­i­tary. Her poems in this pic­ture book remind us that although we can’t often choose our cir­cum­stances we can choose how we respond to them.

Seeing into Tomorrow  

See­ing into Tomor­row: Haiku by Richard Wright
Biog­ra­phy and illus­tra­tions by Nina Crews
Mill­brook Press, 2018

Select­ed from the thou­sands of haiku that Richard Wright wrote in his last years, these poems have uni­ver­sal appeal. Each is paired with a pho­to col­lage that helps read­ers visu­al­ize Wright’s mem­o­ries of grow­ing up in the rur­al South.

Words with Wings  

Words with Wings:
A Trea­sury of African-Amer­i­can Poet­ry and Art
Select­ed by Belin­da Rochelle
Harper­Collins Pub­lish­ers, 2001

This stel­lar col­lec­tion con­tains twen­ty poems by well-known poets, each paired with a bold, endur­ing work by a visu­al artist. The poet­ry and art inspire the imag­i­na­tion as they cap­ture a vari­ety of expe­ri­ences shared by all peo­ple and allow the read­er to look at the world through the eyes of a num­ber of dif­fer­ent artists. Poems by a num­ber of children’s authors are fea­tured in this book as well as ones by authors such as Maya Angelou and Alice Walk­er.

 

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Bookstorm™: The Stuff of Stars

The Stuff of StarsBefore the uni­verse was formed, before time and space exist­ed, there was … noth­ing. But then … BANG! Stars caught fire and burned so long that they explod­ed, fling­ing star­dust every­where. And the ash of those stars turned into plan­ets. Into our Earth. And into us. In a poet­ic text, Mar­i­on Dane Bauer takes read­ers from the tril­lionth of a sec­ond when our uni­verse was born to the sin­gu­lar­i­ties that became each one of us, while vivid illus­tra­tions by Ekua Holmes cap­ture the void before the Big Bang and the ensu­ing life that burst across galax­ies. A seam­less blend of sci­ence and art, this pic­ture book reveals the com­po­si­tion of our world and beyond — and how we are all the stuff of stars.

The Stuff of Stars is an ide­al book for home, read­ing aloud, life cel­e­bra­tions, and as a way to begin dis­cus­sions about sci­ence.

In the class­room and library, The Stuff of Stars is a a poet­ic and breath­tak­ing­ly beau­ti­ful way to open sci­ence units about ani­mals, the earth, out­er space, human beings, and evo­lu­tion. It will ignite imag­i­na­tions when used as a men­tor text for poet­ry units.

In each Book­storm™, we offer a bib­li­og­ra­phy of books that have close ties to the the fea­tured book. You’ll find books, arti­cles, web­sites, and videos for a vari­ety of tastes and inter­ests.  

Downloadables

 

 

You’ll find more infor­ma­tion about Mar­i­on Dane Bauer and Ekua Holmes on their web­sites.

BOOKSTORM TOPICS

Ani­mals of the Earth. The author and illus­tra­tor include many ani­mals in The Stuff of Stars, from hip­popota­mus­es to hors­es to larks. Look close­ly for them in Ekua Holmes’ illus­tra­tions. Use The Stuff of Stars to begin your learn­ing about ani­mals every­where.

Babies. Babies and old­er chil­dren (and adults) love books about babies. The Stuff of Stars is a cel­e­bra­tion of birth. You’ll enjoy explor­ing these books.

Human Body. How amaz­ing our bod­ies are! We rec­om­mend books that will help you talk in age-appro­pri­ate ways about the won­ders of human beings.

Mar­bling. Illus­tra­tor Ekua Holmes uses a paper mar­bling techh­nique to begin her art for The Stuff of Stars … and then she lifts that art­form to a new lev­el. Per­haps you’d like to try paper mar­bling in a class­room or after school set­ting?

Our Earth. From Todd Par­r’s The Earth Book to Lisa Bullard’s Earth Day Every Day to Oliv­er Jef­fers’ Here We Are: Notes for Liv­ing on Plan­et Earth, you’ll find inspi­ra­tion for study­ing fas­ci­nat­ing aspects of our home plan­et.

Our Uni­verse is Born / Evo­lu­tion. We offer a num­ber of books that will bring sci­en­tif­ic the­o­ries of evo­lu­tion into sharp­er focus. How was our uni­verse born?

Plan­ets and Stars. A web­site with a star wheel, a video demon­strat­ing how to use a star chart, and sev­er­al excel­lent books will help you along your way to nav­i­gat­ing the plan­ets and the stars.

Poet­ry. Mar­i­on Dane Bauer’s poem can be used as a men­tor text in your class­room, along with books on show­cased sub­jects by Dou­glas Flo­ri­an, Joseph Bruchac, Lau­ra Pur­die Salas, and more.

Resources for Adults. The author was orig­i­nal­ly inspired by Carl Sagan’s “Cos­mos.” That book and sev­er­al oth­ers are rec­om­mend­ed.

Let us know how you are mak­ing use of this Book­storm™. Share your ideas and any oth­er books you’d add to this Book­storm™.

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Curiouser and Curiouser with Lee Bennett Hopkins

Lee Bennett Hopkins

Lee Ben­nett Hop­kins

As I read each of Lee Ben­nett Hop­kins’ col­lec­tions of poet­ry, I find my curios­i­ty piqued: “How does he do this?” When I was a grad stu­dent, I came across Mr. Hop­kins’ book, Books Are by Peo­ple: inter­views with 104 authors and illus­tra­tors of books for young chil­dren. Those inter­views pro­voked my imag­i­na­tion and pro­pelled my career. It’s a priv­i­lege to be inter­view­ing Mr. Hop­kins for Bookol­o­gy.

Lee: My good­ness! Between 1969 and 1974 I inter­viewed 169 book peo­ple; l04 in Books Are By Peo­ple and 65 in More Books by More Peo­ple. Thank you for remind­ing me of these incred­i­ble adven­tures.

You have been an edu­ca­tor, an author, and an influ­encer. How did you turn to poet­ry books as a path in your life’s work?

I began to real­ize the impor­tance of poet­ry when I began teach­ing sixth grade in Fair Lawn, New Jer­sey, in 1960. I used verse with all stu­dents but found that slow­er read­ers were excit­ed over poems. Vocab­u­lary was often with­in their reach, works were short; more impor­tant we learned that more could some­times be said and felt in 8 or l0 or l2 lines than some­times an entire nov­el could con­vey.

Been to YesterdaysBeing a city child my entire life, I think the rust­ed metronome start­ed beat­ing, telling me to write ‘city.’ “Hydrants” was the first poem I wrote for chil­dren. At a din­ner par­ty of her home in Long Island, I read it to May Swen­son, one of America’s most renowned poets, who told me she liked it. I was hooked. This led me to cre­at­ing Been to Yes­ter­days: Poems of a Life (Boyds Mills Press/Wordsong). Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in 1995, now close to 25 years since its pub­li­ca­tion, the book is being used in Al-Anon pro­grams, youth groups, and stud­ied in writ­ing cours­es. In essence, it is about a strug­gling teen who wants to “make/ this world/a whole lot brighter” to grow up to become a writer.” My life has been, is, blessed with poet­ry.

After teach­ing six years and get­ting my master’s degree at Bank Street Col­lege in New York (when Bank Street was on Bank Street in Green­wich Vil­lage), I was offered a job to work at Bank Street’s Resource Cen­ter in Harlem, enrich­ing lan­guage arts cur­ric­u­la into class­room pro­grams with an empha­sis on poet­ry.

Don't You Turn BookOn May 22, 1967, when Hugh­es died, I could not share his only book for chil­dren, The Dream­keep­er and Oth­er Poems, pub­lished in l932, due to the stereo­typ­i­cal depic­tion of blacks. I bold­ly called Vir­ginia Fowler, edi­tor at Knopf, ask­ing why a new edi­tion had nev­er been done. Vir­ginia asked me to lunch, also sug­gest­ing I do a new col­lec­tion. The result was one of my first antholo­gies, Don’t You Turn Back: Poems by Langston Hugh­es, illus­trat­ed in won­drous two-col­or wood­cut engrav­ings by Ann Gri­fal­coni (l969). In addi­tion to a host of awards, it was an ALA Notable.

In 1994, the 75th Anniver­sary edi­tion of The Dream Keep­er was pub­lished with wood engrav­ings by Bri­an Pinkney. I was invit­ed to write the intro­duc­tion to the book by Janet Schul­man, an icon in our indus­try.

The Dream KeeperI then began to do many antholo­gies with the aim to bring a bevy of poets’ works to chil­dren.

Hook­ing chil­dren on read­ing at a young age is imper­a­tive. I believe they should be read to in the womb! Poet­ry, in par­tic­u­lar, brings a sense of song, melody, sootheness into a child’s life. This can be a life­long gift.

Which comes first: the idea for a book of poet­ry, the theme, or do poems swirl about you until they sug­gest a col­lec­tion?

Each of the three above hap­pen. At times I get an idea or focus on a theme; at oth­er times poems do swirl that sug­gest a col­lec­tion.

What are the steps by which you gath­er poems for a book?

I have a vast library of poet­ry to turn to. Thank­ful­ly, I have a very good mem­o­ry. Ask me for a ‘horse’ poem, a poem about piz­za, or a poem about a jacaran­da tree and I’ll have it for you in min­utes. If I am cre­at­ing a new col­lec­tion of poems espe­cial­ly com­mis­sioned for a book, I issue a BY INVITATION ONLY to a select group of poets.

Do you scout new poets?

At times I do. How­ev­er, “new” poets scout me. I real­ize how dif­fi­cult it is to get one’s work into an anthol­o­gy since very few are pub­lished each year. Hard­ly more than two to five are pub­lished annu­al­ly.  A pic­ture book themed poet­ry col­lec­tion might have between 16 to 20 poems. Major poets must be includ­ed. How­ev­er, I love giv­ing new voic­es a chance. I have start­ed many poets on their path to suc­cess.

Do you visu­al­ize how a poet­ry book will be laid out when you’re select­ing poems?

All of my col­lec­tions have an arc. I want read­ers to read a col­lec­tion as if they were read­ing any book. There is a begin­ning, mid­dle, and end.

When you’re assem­bling a new book, do you think about bal­ance? Col­or? Sound?

Most def­i­nite­ly. All of these are impor­tant.

A sampling

A sam­pling of Lee Ben­nett Hop­kins’ pop­u­lar poet­ry antholo­gies

Do you ever run out of the right poems for a book? What do you do then?

For­tu­nate­ly, I work with pro­fes­sion­al writ­ers who will go back to the “draw­ing board.” It some­times takes many rewrites to get to the place where one feels the work is done. Poets only want their best to be pub­lished.

What are the tools you work with? Pen, scis­sors, jour­nals, the com­put­er?

I work on the com­put­er. Poets send work via email attach­ments. I print them, edit them, often cut and paste. Some­times a poem comes through full-blown; at oth­er times a poet and I will work togeth­er.

What does your work­space look like?

I work in my library/study sur­round­ed by thou­sands of books. I have a large cher­ry-wood desk com­mis­sioned by an Amish crafts­man ide­al for space, fil­ing, etc.

Lee Bennett Hopkins' office

Lee Ben­nett Hop­kins at work in his library/study

Some of the bookshelves in Lee Bennett Hopkins' office

Do you work in silence? Or is there sound sur­round­ing you?

I work in total silence. I love the noth­ing­ness of qui­et. I have a per­fect view from the win­dows in my study, look­ing out at sway­ing palm trees, a rush­ing water­fall, beau­ti­ful sculp­ture. I’m star­ing at all this as I write now. Mag­ic in the mak­ing.

The view from Lee Bennett Hopkins' office window

The view from Lee Ben­nett Hop­kins’ office win­dow

The fountain and grotto at night

The foun­tain at night

What is your favorite object in your work­space?

I have many. A few? A piece of wood sculp­ture the poet and dear­est friend Aileen Fish­er made for me. A let­ter open­er from a won­drous friend who died far too ear­ly in life. A bronze bust of Har­ri­et Tub­man with a sto­ry too long to tell. A paper­weight designed by Tri­na Schart Hyman that launched the first issue of Crick­et mag­a­zine. And shelf upon shelf of trea­sured auto­graphed books by author-friends, lit­er­al­ly A‑Z — Alma Flor Ada to Char­lotte Zolo­tow. These are a life­time of trea­sures.

What pleas­es you about the work you do?

My entire career has been devot­ed to bring­ing chil­dren and poet­ry togeth­er. Poet­ry is life in its deep­est form.

You leave the chil­dren of the world with the gift of poet­ry. We’re thank­ful for the work you’ve done, the wis­dom you’ve shown, the ded­i­ca­tion that has shared poems that res­onate with indi­vid­ual read­ers. Thank you, Mr. Hop­kins, for your con­tri­bu­tions to the world of lit­er­a­ture.

Lee: AND … I thank YOU for bring­ing chil­dren and books togeth­er.

Lee Bennett Hopkins Guinness Book of World Records

Lee Ben­nett Hop­kins is in the Guin­ness Book of World Records as the per­son who has pub­lished the most poet­ry antholo­gies, num­ber­ing 113 in 2011 when he broke the record.

Intrigued? Please vis­it Lee Ben­nett Hop­kins’ web­site for more infor­ma­tion and a wider selec­tion of books.

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Pie and Gratitude

Novem­ber is a month of grat­i­tude — and, for us, a month to cel­e­brate Pie. We all have a favorite. Many of us have child­hood mem­o­ries of good times and pie. We all wait for the days when we can eat pie for break­fast. So we two thought this would be the per­fect month to look at pic­ture books about pie. We so con­sis­tent­ly think of pie in Novem­ber that we also reviewed pie books last year. But we have a cou­ple of new ones this year. And who can think of pie too often?

How to Make an Apple PieWe want to start with the clas­sic—How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Mar­jorie Price­man (Drag­on­fly, 1994). We both love this book, love the idea of teach­ing geog­ra­phy through pie. If you want to make an apple pie and the mar­ket is closed what can you do? Well, you can go to Italy for wheat for your pie crust, France for an egg, Sri Lan­ka for cin­na­mon. Pick up a cow in Eng­land and on and on until you have col­lect­ed the ingre­di­ents for the pie. The two-page spread show­ing the mak­ing of the pie is charm­ing. And the last spread of shar­ing pie with friends — and the cow, the chick­en, a dog and cat is enough to make you want to get out and make a pie. And of course the book includes a recipe for an apple pie.

How to Make a Cherry PiePrice­man did anoth­er book—How to Make Cher­ry Pie and See the U.S.A. (Knopf, 2008) — which focus­es not on ingre­di­ents, but tools involved in pie mak­ing — pothold­ers, pie pan, rolling pin. It fea­tures the same spright­ly illus­tra­tion style and the same inde­fati­ga­ble char­ac­ter who will go to any lengths for pie.

Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie by Rob­bin Gour­ley (Clar­i­on, 2000) is a “pie-shaped” sto­ry fea­tur­ing one of the stars of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry food world — African Amer­i­can writer and chef, Edna Lewis. The book fol­lows the child Edna through­out the sea­sons as she enjoys and com­ments on the foods that come with each. Spring brings wild straw­ber­ries and for­aged greens. Each sea­son also fea­tures a rhyme from Edna:

But I have nev­er tast­ed meat,
nor cab­bage, corn, or beans,
nor milk or tea that’s half as sweet
as that first mess of greens.

Bring Me Some Apples and I'll Make You a PieSum­mer is hon­ey from the bees, cher­ries, berries and peach­es. “Six per­fect peach­es make a per­fect pie.” And then of course, toma­toes, corn, and beans. This is a book to get read­ers think­ing about foods and sea­sons. In a time when we can buy toma­toes and peach­es all year long, it’s good to remem­ber the best fruits and veg­eta­bles are the ones we find in their sea­sons.

When apple sea­son comes Edna’s poem reads:

Don’t ask me no ques­tions,
an’ I won’t tell you no lies.
But bring me some apples,
an’ I’ll make you some pies.

We learn in an Author’s Note that in her writ­ings Edna Lewis extolled the virtues of “pre­serv­ing tra­di­tion­al meth­ods of grow­ing and prepar­ing food and of bring­ing ingre­di­ents direct­ly from the field to the table … For Edna, the goal was to coax the best fla­vor from each ingre­di­ent, and the reward was the taste and sat­is­fac­tion of a deli­cious meal.”

Pie is for SharingPart of the sat­is­fac­tion of a deli­cious meal is in the shar­ing. And that is dou­bly true for pie. If we should ever for­get that and dream of eat­ing a whole pie all by our­selves Stephanie Pars­ley Led­yard and Jason Chin have writ­ten a book to jolt us back to com­mu­ni­ty—Pie is for Shar­ing (Roar­ing Brook, 2018). “Pie is for shar­ing,” this book begins. And we see kids and fam­i­lies gath­er­ing for a pic­nic. The best part is that the kids are all col­ors, all eth­nic­i­ties, and they are play­ing and eat­ing pie togeth­er. No one stands alone. No one is exclud­ed. They also share books, balls, even trees. They laugh and swim and build sand cas­tles. They are a flock of friends on a sum­mer day togeth­er.

This cel­e­bra­tion of pie and com­mu­ni­ty ends with, “Many can share one light. /And a blanket?/A breeze?/The sky?/These are for sharing./Just like pie.”

Gator PieShar­ing pie is the prob­lem and the solu­tion in Gator Pie by Louise Math­ews (illus­trat­ed by Jeni Bas­sett, pub­lished by Dodd, Mead 1979). We hope you can find this book. It is a charm­ing math les­son told with pie. Alvin and Alice are alli­ga­tor friends who hap­pen to find a pie “on a table near the edge of the swamp. /It was a whole pie that had not been cut. /’ I won­der what kind it is,’ said Alice. /’Let’s eat it and find out!’ cried Alvin.” But before they can cut it, an alli­ga­tor “with a nasty look in his eye” stomps up and demands some pie. They real­ize they will have to cut the pie into three pieces. Then comes anoth­er gator — four pieces. And four gators show up, “swag­ger­ing like gang­sters.” We see a pie cut into eight pieces. Then more gators — a hun­dred in all. Very tiny pieces of pie. Alice cuts the pie into one hun­dred pieces and you’d think that would be the end, but Alvin has an idea…

Per­haps we can tell this is an old­er book because it’s Alvin who’s in charge here. Alice could have had that brain­storm and if we were writ­ing this book now, she would. Still they are good friends, the math is fun, and so is end­ing up with a pie for two friends to share.

This month let’s be grate­ful for friends, for inclu­sive com­mu­ni­ty in a world rat­tled with oth­er­ing, and for the chance to make and eat pie.

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Literary Madeleine: Sing a Song of Seasons

Sing a Song of SeasonsI believe this book belongs in every class­room, every home, and in every child’s life. It is a won­drous book to read, to look at, to mem­o­rize, and to talk about with the chil­dren around you. It is a Lit­er­ary Madeleine, scrump­tious in every way.

The full title is Sing a Song of Sea­sons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year, edit­ed by Fiona Water and illus­trat­ed by Frann Pre­ston-Gan­non, it is a won­der. Can you tell I’ve fall­en in love?

Imag­ine in your class­room, or in your home, that you have a rit­u­al of read­ing this book each day at a cer­tain time. The chil­dren will look for­ward to it. There are 333 pages in this large-for­mat book. You’ll find a poem for each day. Some­times there is one poem on two pages and some­times there are three poems on one page. They are often short poems (mem­o­riz­able) and once in awhile there’s a longer poem. The poet­ry ranges from “Who Has Seen the Wind?,” by Christi­na Roset­ti (Jan­u­ary 17th), to “April Rain Song,” by Langston Hugh­es (April 4th), to “Squishy Words (to Be Said When Wet),” by Alis­tair Reid (August 4th), to “At Nine of the Night I Opened My Door,” by Clive Caus­ley (Decem­ber 24th), 

I love the poet­ry selec­tions but I mar­vel at the illus­tra­tions. They are two-page spreads, paint­ed by one artist, and each one is a reward for turn­ing the page. A new sub­ject! Paint­ed with a new palette of col­ors! And the poem for that day is reflect­ed beau­ti­ful­ly in the sea­son­al­ly appro­pri­ate paint­ing.

SING A SONG OF SEASONS. Text com­pi­la­tion copy­right © 2018 by Fiona Waters. Illus­tra­tions copy­right © 2018 by Frann Pre­ston-Gan­non. Repro­duced by per­mis­sion of the pub­lish­er, Can­dlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Kate Wil­son, the pub­lish­er of this book, writes this in her intro­duc­tion: “For my sev­enth birth­day, my par­ents gave me a book that – like this one – con­tained hun­dreds of poems. It was a small, fat book with­out pic­tures. At first I found it daunt­ing: with­out pic­tures, there was noth­ing to catch my eye, noth­ing to lead me into the book. But one rainy  day after school, I took it down and began to read. And that was it for me: I fell in love with poet­ry, with rhyme, with rhythm, with the way that poet­ry squashed big feel­ings, big thoughts, big things, into tiny box­es of bril­liance for the read­er to unpack. It became my favorite book. I have it still. It is stuffed with lit­tle slips of paper that I used to mark the poems I liked best. As I grew old­er, those poems changed: a poem that baf­fled and bored me when I was sev­en revealed itself to me years lat­er. I learned many of them by heart and could still recite them to you now.”

I had a book like that: Favorite Poems Old and New: Select­ed for Boys and Girls, by Helen Fer­ris. I have it still. It brought me to poet­ry, which I start­ed writ­ing when I was in third grade. I have a respect and love for poet­ry to this day. And isn’t that what we want for our chil­dren? A steady path to con­nect with the beau­ty of words and big thoughts?

Sing a Song of Seasons

SING A SONG OF SEASONS. Text com­pi­la­tion copy­right © 2018 by Fiona Waters. Illus­tra­tions copy­right © 2018 by Frann Pre­ston-Gan­non. Repro­duced by per­mis­sion of the pub­lish­er, Can­dlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

The book’s design is thought­ful. There is a shiny rib­bon to mark your place. There is a Table of Con­tents for the book, a Table of Con­tents for each sea­son, an index of poets, an index of poems, and an index of first lines! You can find your favorite poem again and again. 

As your child grows to love poet­ry, as they get old­er, remem­ber to sup­ple­ment this book with oth­er slim vol­umes of poet­ry such as If You Were the Moon by Lau­ra Pur­die Salas, One Last Word: Wis­dom from the Harlem Renais­sance by Nik­ki Grimes, World Make Way: New Poems Inspired by Art from the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um, edit­ed by Lee Ben­nett Hop­kins, and Imag­ine by Juan Felipe Her­rera and Lau­ren Castil­lo. There are hun­dreds of won­der­ful books of poet­ry … but Sing a Song of Sea­sons will be a com­pelling door to that world.

Imag­ine each morn­ing in your class­room, pulling this book down from its spe­cial shelf, open­ing it to the day’s poem, show­ing your stu­dents the art for that day, and read­ing the poem out loud. If your stu­dents are old enough, per­haps a round-robin of chil­dren would read the day’s poem.

At home, what bet­ter way to start or end each day than with a few moments of qui­et while you read the book togeth­er?

Sing a Song of Seasons

SING A SONG OF SEASONS. Text com­pi­la­tion copy­right © 2018 by Fiona Waters. Illus­tra­tions copy­right © 2018 by Frann Pre­ston-Gan­non. Repro­duced by per­mis­sion of the pub­lish­er, Can­dlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Of course, you will open the book imme­di­ate­ly to find your birth­day poem and anniver­sary poem. Oak trees and acorns fig­ure large in our fam­i­ly’s life. We were delight­ed to find that the two-page illus­tra­tion for our anniver­sary is filled with oak leaves and acorns! Did I men­tion that I am in love with this book? You will be, too.

 

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Lucille Clifton: All About Love

Lucille Clifton, poet and author

Lucille Clifton, poet and author

Poet Lucille Clifton in a 1998 inter­view “Doing What You Will Do,” pub­lished in Sleep­ing with One Eye Open: Women Writ­ers and the Art of Sur­vival, said, “I think the oral tra­di­tion is the one which is most inter­est­ing to me and the voice in which I like to speak.” Asked about the most impor­tant aspect of her craft, she answered, “For me, sound … sound, the music of a poem, the feel­ing are most impor­tant. I can feel what I can hear.”

Clifton was a poet, but as any writer or read­er or hear­er of pic­ture books knows, pic­ture books and poet­ry are kin. Both are meant to be read out loud, savored by the ear and by the tongue.  Both depend on sound, on image, on emo­tion. Every word mat­ters in a poem and in a pic­ture book. So is it any won­der that Lucille Clifton, amaz­ing poet, was also a con­sum­mate pic­ture book writer?

Some of the Days of Everett Anderson

illus­trat­ed by Eva­line Ness

Clifton’s sto­ries hon­or both the every­day lives and also the emo­tion­al lives of chil­dren. Eight of her pic­ture books are about Everett Ander­son, a fic­tion­al African-Amer­i­can boy with a sin­gle moth­er who lives in a city apart­ment, a boy so real to read­ers that chil­dren wrote him let­ters. Some of the Days of Everett Ander­son intro­duces us to Everett Ander­son and takes us through his week, with themes of miss­ing dad­dy, of mama need­ing to work, of a boy who real­izes being afraid of the dark would mean being afraid of the peo­ple he loves and even afraid of him­self.

Everett Anderson's Christmas Coming

illus­trat­ed by Eva­line Ness; a lat­er edi­tion was illus­trat­ed by Jan Spivey Gilchrist

Everett Anderson’s Christ­mas Com­ing joy­ful­ly cel­e­brates a city Christ­mas through the days of expec­ta­tion and excite­ment for a boy who lives “In 14A  … between the snow that falls on down­er lives.” He thinks about what he would want if his Dad­dy was here, and how he should try hard­er to be good, and how boys with lots of presents have to spend the whole Christ­mas day open­ing them and nev­er have fun. When a tree blooms with col­or in his apart­ment, and Everett, we see from the art, gets a drum for Christ­mas, Everett Ander­son sees how “our Christ­mas bounces off the sky and shines on all the down­er ones.”

Everett Anderson's Year

illus­trat­ed by Ann Gri­fal­coni

Everett’s Anderson’s Year takes Everett Ander­son from Jan­u­ary when his Mama tells him to walk tall in the world through the months and events of Everett’s Anderson’s year: wait­ing for Mama to come home from work, want­i­ng to make Amer­i­ca a birth­day cake except the sug­ar is almost gone and he will have to wait until pay­day to buy more, miss­ing his Dad­dy wher­ev­er he is, not under­stand­ing why he has to go back to school again, and real­iz­ing, at the end of the year

It’s just about love,”
his Mama smiles.
“It’s all about Love and
you know about that.”

Everett Anderson's Friend

illus­trat­ed by Ann Gri­fal­coni

With Everett Anderson’s Friend his world expands. A new neigh­bor in 13A turns out to be a girl who can out­run and out­play Everett at ball, and he isn’t inter­est­ed in being friends. Then one day he locks him­self out of his apart­ment, and Maria invites him in to 13A where her moth­er “makes lit­tle pies called Tacos, calls lit­tle boys Mucha­chos, and likes to thank the Dios.” Everett real­izes he and Maria can be friends even if she wins at ball. “And the friends we find are full of sur­pris­es Everett Ander­son real­izes.” A sub­tle thread through­out the sto­ry is Everett Ander­son miss­ing his father, who if he were there when Everett locks him­self out, would make peanut but­ter and jel­ly for him and not be mad at all. We don’t know where Everett’s dad­dy is, but we feel his yearn­ing for his father even as Everett dis­cov­ers a new friend. 

Everett Anderson's 1-2-3

illus­trat­ed by Ann Gri­fal­coni

His world expands again in Everett Anderson’s 1−2−3 when Everett Anderson’s mama and a new neigh­bor, Mr. Per­ry, hit it off. One can be fun, Everett thinks, but one can be lone­ly if Mama is busy talk­ing with the new neigh­bor. Everett likes just the two of them, he and Mama. Mama tells Everett that while she miss­es his dad­dy two can be lone­ly – and things do go on. Everett thinks he can get used to being three, but the sto­ry refus­es a pat solu­tion. 

One can be lone­ly and One can be fun, and
Two can be awful or per­fect for some, and
Three can be crowd­ed or can be just right or
Even too many, you have to decide.
Mr. Per­ry and Everett Ander­son too
Know the num­ber you need
Is the num­ber for you. 

Everett Anderson's Goodbye

illus­trat­ed by Ann Gri­fal­coni

In Everett Anderson’s Good­bye we learn that Everett’s father has died. The spare and ten­der sto­ry takes Everett through the five stages of grief list­ed at the begin­ning of the book:  denial, anger, bar­gain­ing, depres­sion and, after a while, accep­tance. In the begin­ning Everett Ander­son holds his mama’s hand and dreams of “just Dad­dy, Dad­dy for­ev­er and ever.” An angry Everett declares he doesn’t love any­body, or any­thing, and a bar­gain­ing Everett promis­es to learn his nine times nine and nev­er sleep late or gob­ble his bread if Dad­dy can be alive again. Everett can’t even sleep because “the hurt is too deep.” After some time pass­es Everett comes to accep­tance of his daddy’s death and says, “I knew my dad­dy loved me through and through, and what­ev­er hap­pens when peo­ple die, love doesn’t stop, and nei­ther will I.”

Everett Anderson's Nine Month Long

illus­trat­ed by Ann Gri­fal­coni

The library’s copy of Everett Anderson’s Nine Month Long has a splen­did sur­prise on the title page: Lucille Clifton’s sig­na­ture and the inscrip­tion, For Ian — Joy! 281. The sto­ry tells about Everett deal­ing with a com­ing new baby in the fam­i­ly and ten­der­ly shows his feel­ings, from antic­i­pa­tion to feel­ing left out. Mr. Per­ry, who is now Everett’s step­fa­ther, helps Everett know that his mama

… is still the same
Mama who loves you what­ev­er her name
and what­ev­er oth­er sis­ter or broth­er
you know you are her
spe­cial one,
her first­born Everett Ander­son.

One of the Problems of Ann Grifalconi

illus­trat­ed by Ann Gri­fal­coni

Over the course of these sto­ries Everett Ander­son grows in empa­thy and under­stand­ing. In the last book One of the Prob­lems of Everett Ander­son he wor­ries  about what to do when a friend shows up every day “with a scar or a bruise or a mark on his leg” and has the “sad­dest sad­dest face like he was lost in the loneli­est place.”  When Everett tells Mama he doesn’t know how to help his friend Greg, she lis­tens and hugs him hard and holds his hand. 

and Everett tries to under­stand
that one of the things he can do right now
is lis­ten to Greg and hug and hold
his friend, and now that Mama is told,
some­thing will hap­pen for Greg that is new.

Some­times the lit­tle things that you do
make a dif­fer­ence.
Everett Ander­son hopes that’s true.

Clifton’s sto­ries rec­og­nize that not all prob­lems are eas­i­ly solved, but in the del­i­cate strength of this telling, Everett learns that doing lit­tle things might make a dif­fer­ence for his friend. We hope so, too.

From 1970 until her death in 2010 Lucille Clifton made poet­ry of every­day lives and hearts. Read some of the books of Lucille Clifton. Read them all.

They’re all about love, and we know about that.

P.S. Anoth­er month we want to share some of the oth­er won­der­ful children’s books by Lucille Clifton.

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Pomelo Books

Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong

What do a uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor from Dal­las and a lawyer from Prince­ton have in com­mon?

Both are pas­sion­ate about poet­ry, specif­i­cal­ly, poet­ry in the class­room for every­one, every­day, and about any­thing, even alge­bra. Sylvia Vardell, pro­fes­sor and author of edu­ca­tion­al books for teach­ers, and Janet Wong, lawyer and author of sev­er­al dozen books for chil­dren, com­bined their knowl­edge and poet­ry pas­sion and cre­at­ed Pome­lo Books. Their goal was to pub­lish books that make poet­ry avail­able and acces­si­ble — and fun — in the class­room.

Pet CrazyEach book (twelve books so far and more on the way) has a unique focus. The books in The Poet­ry Fri­day Anthol­o­gy series offer a vari­ety of verse and also short edu­ca­tion­al guides, resources, “Take 5 lessons,” and oth­er appli­ca­tions that cross cur­ricu­lum lines. Each verse entry in the Poet­ry Fri­day Pow­er Book series pro­vides white space for reluc­tant writ­ers, prompts for writ­ing, and sug­ges­tions of places where stu­dents can sub­mit their own poems for pub­li­ca­tion.

In their own words, Pome­lo Books are unique books “that will puck­er your lips, reduce cho­les­terol, cure scurvy, curb glob­al warm­ing, and make young peo­ple hap­py while teach­ing them lots.”

What is most reward­ing about being a pub­lish­er?

CelebrationsSylvia Vardell: There have been so many rewards in this ven­ture: col­lab­o­rat­ing with the ener­getic Janet Wong and 100+ poets across the globe, see­ing a project come to fruit in print, and watch­ing teach­ers thumb through the book and say, “Yes, I can DO this!”

But prob­a­bly my favorite thing is how much I have learned along the way! I love try­ing new things and cre­at­ing Pome­lo Books has pushed me to try many, many new things such as the ins and outs of soft­ware pro­grams, exper­i­ment­ing with book design, cre­at­ing pro­mo­tion­al graph­ics, and pre­sent­ing to all kinds of audi­ences. And that doesn’t even include all the new things I’ve learned about poet­ry

Who do you hope is read­ing and talk­ing about your books?

Janet Wong: Recent­ly Sylvia and I have been booked at sev­er­al uni­ver­si­ty con­fer­ences to speak to pre-ser­vice teach­ers, as well as recent grads. This, to me, is the ide­al audi­ence: new teach­ers who are eager to find their own best ways of reach­ing all kinds of kids. They under­stand that time is tight, and a five-minute poet­ry les­son can be used to teach mul­ti­ple con­tent areas. It’s so great to see them snap­ping tons of pho­tos of Sylvia’s Pow­er­Point slides!

Tell us about a few of your recent pub­li­ca­tions and why they are unique.

The Poetry of ScienceJanet Wong: One of the most dis­tinc­tive things about our books in The Poet­ry Fri­day Anthol­o­gy series is the sheer size of them: in 4 books (our orig­i­nal K‑5 book, the Mid­dle School book, the Sci­ence book, and the Cel­e­bra­tions book) we have 700+ poems by 150 poets. That’s a whole lot of diver­si­ty (of all kinds) — diverse voic­es, diverse top­ics, and diverse approach­es.

And in our recent Poet­ry Fri­day Pow­er Book series (You Just Wait, Here We Go, and Pet Crazy), we’re pro­vid­ing Pow­er­Packs that are filled with pre-writ­ing activ­i­ties, men­tor poems, and writ­ing prompts—plus the poems, woven togeth­er, tell a sto­ry, Plus there are exten­sive back mat­ter resources on where kids can get pub­lished and a whole lot more. Our mot­to is “Pome­lo Books = Poet­ry Plus!” and we’re doing our best to live up to it!

As an edu­ca­tor, what do your books add to my stu­dents’ class­room expe­ri­ence?

Here We GoSylvia Vardell: This is where Pome­lo Books is unique. As Janet point­ed out, we are so proud to fea­ture 700+ poems by 150 poets in our var­i­ous antholo­gies, but added to that are “Take 5” activ­i­ties or mini-lessons for every sin­gle one of those 700+ poems. We pro­vide the short­cut that a busy teacher can use to pause, share a poem, and pro­vide a tiny lit­er­a­cy les­son that is engag­ing and mean­ing­ful. For the busy edu­ca­tor, our books are very search­able and prac­ti­cal, offer­ing poems on top­ics that are rel­e­vant to children’s lives and con­nect­ed with cur­ric­u­lar areas. We make it easy for the novice teacher to begin as well as for the expe­ri­enced edu­ca­tor to add vari­ety and cre­ativ­i­ty to poem shar­ing. 

Pome­lo Books web­site

Pome­lo Books twelve pub­li­ca­tions are:

The Poet­ry Fri­day Anthol­o­gy (K‑5 Com­mon Core)

The Poet­ry Fri­day Anthol­o­gy (K‑5 TEKS)

The Poet­ry Fri­day Anthol­o­gy for Mid­dle School (Com­mon Core)

The Poet­ry Fri­day Anthol­o­gy for Mid­dle School (TEKS)

The Poet­ry Fri­day Anthol­o­gy for Sci­ence (K‑5 Teacher/Librarian Edi­tion)

The Poet­ry of Sci­ence: The Poet­ry Fri­day Anthol­o­gy for Sci­ence for Kids

The TEKS Guide to The Poet­ry Fri­day Anthol­o­gy for Sci­ence

The Poet­ry Fri­day Anthol­o­gy for Cel­e­bra­tions (Teacher/Librarian Edi­tion)

The Poet­ry Fri­day Anthol­o­gy for Cel­e­bra­tions (Chil­dren’s Edi­tion)

You Just Wait: A Poet­ry Fri­day Pow­er Book

Here We Go: A Poet­ry Fri­day Pow­er Book

Pet Crazy: A Poet­ry Fri­day Pow­er Book

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Dearie Darling Cuddle Hug: A Tribute to Wendy Watson

Father Fox's PennyrhymesWhen our chil­dren were young we both spent many hours with them pour­ing over Wendy Wat­son’s illus­tra­tions for her sis­ter Clyde’s rhymes in Father Fox’s Pen­nyrhymes and delight­ing in the sounds and the silli­ness of the rhymes them­selves. We felt as though we had lost a per­son­al friend when Wendy Wat­son died, even though we had nev­er met her.

Here’s just one pen­nyrhyme:

Mis­ter Lis­ter sassed his sis­ter
Mar­ried his wife ‘cause he couldn’t resist her,
Three plus four times two he kissed her:
How many times is that, dear sis­ter?

The illus­tra­tions wel­comed us into Father Fox’s fam­i­ly, a large rol­lick­ing cre­ative crew in a house filled with writ­ing, art, music, and chil­dren, much like the Wat­son fam­i­ly. Clyde has said that their father was the orig­i­nal Father Fox, and Wendy wrote of the art, “Many fox­es wear favorite gar­ments that still hang in clos­ets in Put­ney; and spe­cial fam­i­ly occu­pa­tions and times of the year and occa­sions are in almost every poem and pic­ture.” In the pic­tures (and per­haps in the clos­ets) the clothes are patched show­ing both wear and care.

Small sto­ries unfold in the illus­tra­tions.

You might read,

Som­er­sault & Pep­per-upper
Sim­mer down and eat your sup­per,
Arti­chokes & Mus­tard Pick­le
Two for a dime or six for a nick­el.

Mean­while in four pan­els on a dou­ble-page spread, a horse gal­lops by draw­ing a coach piled high with bun­dles, a fid­dle case, and a young fox rid­ing on top. The coach hits a bump, the salt shak­er falls out the win­dow, a bowl of sup­per falls on the coach dri­ver, and, leav­ing bits and pieces behind, the coach dri­ves on.

Wendy WatsonWhen Wendy had chil­dren of her own she often hid famil­iar things in her art that only they would know, “like dish­es that we owned or fur­ni­ture.”

Our friend Liza Ketchum, who knew Wendy very well, said that the time she spent on each draw­ing was incred­i­ble. In a draw­ing of a coun­try store you can find boots, slip­pers, pots, pans, paint­brush­es, pen­ny can­dy, even bolts of fab­ric and a horse col­lar.

 “Wendy had a throaty laugh that was just won­der­ful,” Liza told us, “and she cared so much about every­thing. When she could not take her cat on an air­plane, she drove cross-coun­try with her cat instead.”

Bedtime BunniesWendy wrote and illus­trat­ed twen­ty-one books for chil­dren and illus­trat­ed over six­ty books by oth­er authors. We could say so much more about so many of her books that we love, (you can read a list and descrip­tions of her pub­lished books), but we have to share one more of our favorites, Bed­time Bun­nies. The bun­ny par­ents call to five lit­tle bun­nies, “Bed­time, bun­nies.” The heart of this spar­e­ly writ­ten book is verbs, four to a spread — skip, scam­per, scur­ry, hop — while the art shows the bun­nies com­ing in for the night, hav­ing sup­per, brush­ing their teeth — Squirt Scrub Splut­ter Spit — tak­ing a bath, get­ting into their paja­mas, hear­ing a sto­ry, get­ting into bed — climb bounce jump thump, and get­ting tucked in — Dearie Dar­ling Cud­dle Hug. The book ends with “Good­night, Bun­nies.”

The illus­tra­tions are spare but full of expres­sion and love, and the col­or palette is soft and warm, with yel­lows, ros­es, green, blues. In each of the live­ly pic­tures the lit­tlest bun­ny does things in their unique style. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this bun­ny fam­i­ly, or Father Fox’s fam­i­ly? It’s as if Wendy Wat­son is call­ing to us — Dearie Dar­ling Cud­dle Hug. Each time we open one of her books, we are invit­ed in to her warm cir­cle of fam­i­ly. And that will nev­er change.

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With My Hands

Some­times, a book comes across my desk that sparkles like a gem, attract­ing my atten­tion, insist­ing that I stop what I’m doing and read it. This hap­pened when With My Hands: Poems about Mak­ing Things arrived last week. I thought I’d take a peek. Next thing you know, I was clos­ing the last page of the book, sigh­ing with con­tent­ment. And then I knew I had to read the book all over again.

I’ve been inter­est­ed in mak­ing things since I can first remem­ber. Whether I was cre­at­ing a peg­board town with my Playskool set or help­ing my grand­moth­er make pie crust or giv­ing my grand­fa­ther a hand in his shop, or sewing small items to dec­o­rate my Bar­bie doll house … I still feel best when my hands, mind, and heart are busy. When cre­ativ­i­ty is awake and sat­is­fied.

This book will serve as inspi­ra­tion, recog­ni­tion, and encour­age­ment. It will awak­en a dor­mant mak­er and help a per­sis­tent mak­er sit up and feel good about what they do.

VanDerwater’s poet­ry is under­stand­able. It reads out loud well. It is often brief. Her word choice is pal­pa­ble … I find myself cheer­ing her selec­tions.

The illus­tra­tions by Steve John­son and Lou Fanch­er are bril­liant. From the first spread, “Mak­er,” with the art based on fin­ger­prints (I can do that!) and a hill­side of clover, to the last spread “Shad­ow Show,” with its exam­ple of a shad­ow pup­pet that echoes spi­rals, the inspi­ra­tion for art-mak­ing is full of detail and sub­tle ideas to launch your own work. I par­tic­u­lar­ly enjoy those spreads where two dis­parate poems are unit­ed by the illus­tra­tions. That pro­vides inspi­ra­tion, too!

My excite­ment lev­el after read­ing this book was high. Much like the Olympics cre­ate pos­si­bil­i­ties in young minds, this book encour­ages the can-do spir­it.

Poet­ry? Give the dif­fer­ent forms a try. Craft with words. Origa­mi? Leaf pic­tures? Mak­ing a piña­ta? Tie-dying? Soap carv­ing? The sub­tle humor in VanDerwater’s poet­ry and the John­son Fanch­ers’ art keeps read­ers’ spir­its high.

Para­chute

I cut a para­chute from plas­tic
tied my guy on with elas­tic
threw him from a win­dow (dras­tic)
watched him drift to earth — fan­tas­tic!”

The Army Guy tied to the plas­tic para­chute, drift­ing down to the boat fea­tured in the next poem … this is the kind of poet­ry every­one can enjoy, the inspi­ra­tion every­one needs.

With My Hands: Poems about Mak­ing Things
writ­ten by Amy Lud­wig Van­Der­wa­ter
illus­trat­ed by Steve John­son and Lou Fanch­er
Clar­i­on Books, March 27, 2018
978 – 0544313408

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Read Out Loud for Easter

As you pre­pare to cel­e­brate East­er, we encour­age you to include books in your cel­e­bra­tion. A tra­di­tion of read­ing out loud before East­er din­ner, after East­er din­ner, as you awak­en on East­er morn­ing … per­haps each day dur­ing Holy Week? Here are a few gems we believe you and your fam­i­ly will trea­sure. Hap­py East­er!

At Jerusalem's Gate  

At Jerusalem’s Gate: Poems of East­er
writ­ten by Nik­ki Grimes, illus­trat­ed by David Framp­ton
Eerd­mans Books for Young Read­ers, 2005

There are twen­ty-two free-form poems in this book, each from the point of view of a wit­ness to the events of the cru­ci­fix­ion and res­ur­rec­tion of Jesus Christ. Each poem could be read by a dif­fer­ent fam­i­ly mem­ber or the poems could be read sep­a­rate­ly through­out the East­er week­end. The wood­cut illus­tra­tions will engen­der con­ver­sa­tions about the style, tech­nique, and details.

The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes

 

The Coun­try Bun­ny and the Lit­tle Gold Shoes
writ­ten by Du Bose Hey­ward, illus­trat­ed by Mar­jorie Flack
Houghton Mif­flin Har­court, 1939

Lit­tle Cot­ton­tail Moth­er is rais­ing 21 chil­dren, but it’s her dream to become the East­er Bun­ny. As she assigns her chil­dren chores and teach­es them life’s lessons, she gains con­fi­dence to audi­tion for the job of one of the five East­er Bun­nies who deliv­er eggs and bas­kets on East­er Sun­day. It’s a sweet sto­ry still, near­ly 80 years after it was first pub­lished. The bright­ly col­ored illus­tra­tions are mem­o­ry-mak­ing for new gen­er­a­tions of read­ers.

The Easter Story  

The East­er Sto­ry
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Bri­an Wild­smith
Alfred A. Knopf, 1994

The events of Holy Week, the Last Sup­per, the cru­ci­fix­ion, and the Res­ur­rec­tion, are recount­ed through the eyes of the lit­tle don­key that car­ried Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sun­day. With Wildsmith’s dis­tinc­tive illus­tra­tions, this book has been pub­lished in many edi­tions and many lan­guages. A good read-aloud book to add to your East­er book­shelf.

Egg  

Egg
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Kevin Henkes
Green­wil­low Books, 2017

Four eggs, each a dif­fer­ent col­or, hatch (one doesn’t) and the chicks set off — and return for the unhatched egg. When the egg hatch­es, there’s a sur­prise! When the book ends, there’s anoth­er sur­prise! This is a book about friend­ship and grow­ing up, just right for read­ing out loud and for emerg­ing read­ers to read on their own. With sim­ple lines and appeal­ing col­ors, the illus­tra­tions are irre­sistible.

The Golden Egg Book  

The Gold­en Egg Book
writ­ten by Mar­garet Wise Brown, illus­trat­ed by Leonard Weis­gard
Gold­en Books, 1947

A true clas­sic among East­er books, a small bun­ny finds a blue egg. He can hear some­thing mov­ing around inside so he con­jec­tures what it might be. As the bun­ny tries to open the egg, he wears out and falls asleep. Only then does the young duck­ling emerge from the egg. With rich­ly col­ored illus­tra­tions from the mas­ter­ful Leonard Weis­gard, this is a trea­sured book for many chil­dren and fam­i­lies.

Simon of Cyrene and the Legend of the Easter Egg  

Simon of Cyrene and the Leg­end of the East­er Egg
writ­ten by Ter­ri DeGezelle, illus­trat­ed by Gab­hor Uto­mo
Pauline Books & Media, 2017

Based on a few lines about the leg­end of Simon of Cyrene that the author found while research­ing, this book brings to life the expe­ri­ence of the cru­ci­fix­ion and res­ur­rec­tion of Jesus Christ, as told through the per­spec­tive of Simon. He takes eggs to Jerusalem to sell for Passover when he becomes caught up in the pro­ces­sion fol­low­ing Jesus as he car­ries his cross to Cal­vary. As Jesus stum­bles and falls, a Roman sol­dier forces Simon to bear the cross instead. Told with a live­ly nar­ra­tive and bright­ly col­ored, sat­is­fy­ing illus­tra­tions, this is a good sto­ry to choose for read-alouds, open­ing up an oppor­tu­ni­ty to dis­cuss the many aspects of the East­er sto­ry.

Story of Easter  

Sto­ry of East­er
writ­ten by Aileen Fish­er, illus­trat­ed by Ste­fano Vitale
Harper­Collins, 1997

With an infor­ma­tive text and glo­ri­ous illus­tra­tions, this book explains both how and why peo­ple all over the world cel­e­brate East­er. It tells the bib­li­cal sto­ry of Jesus’ Res­ur­rec­tion and then describes how peo­ple hon­or this day and the ori­gins of these tra­di­tions. Hands-on activ­i­ties help draw chil­dren into the spir­it of this joy­ous cel­e­bra­tion of rebirth.

Story of the Easter Bunny  

Sto­ry of the East­er Bun­ny
writ­ten by Kather­ine Tegen, illus­trat­ed by Sal­ly Anne Lam­bert Harper­Collins, 2005

Most peo­ple know about the East­er Bun­ny, but how did the East­er Bun­ny get his job and how does he accom­plish the dis­tri­b­u­tion of so many col­or­ful eggs each East­er? It all began in a small cot­tage with an old cou­ple who dye the eggs and weave the bas­kets. One East­er, they sleep in and it’s their pet white rabbit’s deci­sion to deliv­er the eggs and choco­late, there­by start­ing a tra­di­tion. Told in a mat­ter-of-fact style with appeal­ing, detailed illus­tra­tions, this is a good addi­tion to your East­er tra­di­tion.

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Behind the Poem, “What She Asked”

one of Vir­gini­a’s many pop­u­lar books for upper mid­dle grade and teen read­ers

Lis­ten to Vir­gini­a’s poem, “What She Asked,” on Poet­ry Mosa­ic, the April 7th entry, and then read her descrip­tion of the real-life event behind the poem.

In a rur­al Ore­gon high school where I taught Eng­lish more than 20 years ago, we had big teach­ing areas sep­a­rat­ed by screen-wall things, but they came nowhere near reach­ing the high ceil­ing, because a few years ear­li­er the design of the school had been to have a giant Resource Cen­ter and Library, and teach­ers and groups of stu­dents would ide­al­ly meet in sec­tions of the mas­sive room, and that would be school. Didn’t turn out that way (of course): Acoustics were the main prob­lem, but also the con­tin­u­ous human traf­fic through, com­ing and going in the Library sec­tion. So the dividers arrived, and we had some­what dis­crete class areas, but not real­ly. If the neigh­bor­ing class area was noisy, focus and con­cen­tra­tion were dif­fi­cult. In one or two peri­ods of the day, my area’s near­est neigh­bor was Human Health and Sex­u­al­i­ty, and we who were study­ing fic­tion heard “and the con­doms don’t always work,” etc.

What She Asked,” is includ­ing in this poet­ry anthol­o­gy, pub­lished by Pome­lo Books, 2016

There were the occa­sion­al paper air­planes. One or two per week, maybe. 

One after­noon, in the sleepy after-lunch peri­od, I whis­per­ing­ly asked my class (high school juniors, maybe some sopho­mores) to make paper air­planes and we would send them, on sig­nal, over the wall to Human Health and Sex­u­al­i­ty.

Can we make more than one?” “Sure! As many as you can fly all at once,” said I. I insist­ed that they under­stand that only at my sig­nal would the fleet of air­planes have the desired effect of simul­tane­ity. I, too, made one paper air­plane.

On my own per­son­al count of 3, it worked. I think we must have sent over 40+ air­planes into the next class. Great fun. The teacher had a fine sense of humor (her fields were Biol­o­gy and Ski Coach­ing) and she liked the dra­mat­ic moment of it. Of course Human Health and Sex­u­al­i­ty sent the planes back, but I sup­pose we won because we had done it first. And simul­ta­ne­ous­ly.

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Merna Ann Hecht and Our Table of Memories

Merna Ann Hecht

Mer­na Ann Hecht

When one poet, Mer­na Ann Hecht, and one edu­ca­tor, Car­rie Stradley, observed their com­mu­ni­ty, their schools, their stu­dents, and real­ized that a pletho­ra of life expe­ri­ences sur­round­ed them, they put their teach­ing and their hearts togeth­er to cre­ate The Sto­ries of Arrival: Refugee and Immi­grant Youth Voic­es Poet­ry Project at Fos­ter High School, in Tuk­wila, Wash­ing­ton.

These weren’t typ­i­cal high school sto­ries. Instead, these stu­dents have expe­ri­ences of leav­ing their homes, their friends, their schools, their coun­tries … to emi­grate to Amer­i­ca, where life is often astound­ing­ly dif­fer­ent.

Encour­ag­ing these Eng­lish Lan­guage Learn­ing stu­dents, more than 240 of them over the past six years from 30 coun­tries, to com­mu­ni­cate their sto­ries through poet­ry helps to empow­er them to find their voic­es and move con­fi­dent­ly into their cho­sen futures (a para­phrase of the project’s mis­sion).

Stories of Our Arrival

Com­bine this project with anoth­er, Project Feast, and you have not only a cook­book of world­wide appeal but a book of poet­ry that is often eye-open­ing, com­pas­sion­ate, and heartrend­ing. A recipe for under­stand­ing. A taste of the mem­o­ries, trav­els, and long­ing behind the poets’ words.

Togeth­er with their part­ners The Insti­tute for Poet­ic Med­i­cine (Palo Alto, CA), the Jack Straw Cul­tur­al Cen­ter (Seat­tle, WA), and Chatwin Books (Seat­tle, WA), these two women and their projects have cre­at­ed Our Table of Mem­o­ries: Food & Poet­ry of Spir­it, Home­land & Tra­di­tion. It’s a beau­ti­ful book, part poet­ry by high school stu­dents, part recipes from the tra­di­tion­al cooks from their coun­tries, and part art with illus­tra­tions by Mor­gan Wright, a recent col­lege grad­u­ate, new­ly enrolled in New York City’s Bank Street Col­lege to pur­sue her Mas­ter of Arts in teach­ing.

By pub­lish­ing this inter­view with Mer­na Hecht, it is the hope of Bookol­o­gy’s edi­tors that you will be inspired to con­sid­er a pro­gram like this in your own com­mu­ni­ty. Feel free to con­tact Mer­na with your ques­tions.

  Can you tell us a bit about your life, in par­tic­u­lar what pulled you toward poet­ry?

 There is not a moment I can recall when I wasn’t pulled toward poet­ry. I first heard the incan­ta­to­ry rhythms of poems from my grand­fa­ther who gave beau­ti­ful, mem­o­rized recita­tions of Longfel­low and John Green­leaf Whit­ti­er. I think it was sec­ond grade when I began writ­ing rhymed poems. Those child­hood poems were shaped by what then seemed the mag­ic of the nat­ur­al world. Notic­ing details of bugs, petals, leaves, cracks in the side­walks on my way to and from school often made me late. At the time it seemed like a secret world. Now I think that ear­ly impulse for close obser­va­tion and a deeply pri­vate inner world have shaped the poet I’ve become. I have always turned toward poet­ry to nour­ish my spir­it. As a young woman, I began to read many dif­fer­ent poets who spoke to me, chal­lenged me, pro­voked me and opened my eyes and heart to the beau­ty and suf­fer­ing of the world; I’ve not stopped turn­ing these pages. Poet­ry is the place where I find a well­spring for expres­sion of what seems most ten­der, most true and most unsayable. 

How did you find your way to teach­ing?

By a some­what gnarled and twist­ed path and I’m so glad I got there! I was a reg­is­tered nurse by the age of 21 and worked for five years as a pedi­atric nurse. I usu­al­ly car­ried fin­ger pup­pets in my pock­ets and offered impromp­tu sto­ried pup­pet shows at children’s bed­sides. Then came a real­iza­tion that I much pre­ferred the sto­ry­telling and pup­pets to the nurs­ing! “The rest is his­to­ry,” from work­ing with mid­wives on the Nava­ho reser­va­tion, to jaunt­ing about as a pup­peteer and poet in the schools in rur­al Ida­ho, to earn­ing a Mas­ters Degree as a children’s librar­i­an. Under the tute­lage of mas­ter sto­ry­teller, Pro­fes­sor Spencer Shaw at the Uni­ver­si­ty of WA, I fell in love with the art and craft of tale-spin­ning. Fast for­ward to work­ing as a children’s librar­i­an for Seat­tle Pub­lic Library to my first for­mal teach­ing job in a pro­gres­sive teacher cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­gram and onward to becom­ing a teach­ing artist and a uni­ver­si­ty lec­tur­er.

You’re nation­al­ly known as a sto­ry­teller. In 2008, the Nation­al Sto­ry­telling Net­work pre­sent­ed you with their Brim­stone Award for Applied Sto­ry­telling, with which you cre­at­ed a pilot pro­gram as a poet and sto­ry­teller at Bridges: A Cen­ter for Griev­ing Chil­dren in Taco­ma. Can you tell us about applied sto­ry­telling? What does that mean and how do your sto­ries work toward that spe­cif­ic appli­ca­tion?

These days, sto­ry­tellers show up in many places: deten­tion cen­ters, hos­pi­tals, war torn coun­tries at cen­ters for young peo­ple in trau­ma and drug rehab facil­i­ties for teens. These racon­teurs bring the age old plea­sure of lis­ten­ing to a tale well told. This allows young peo­ple (and all of us) to tem­porar­i­ly walk in some­one else’s shoes; it sparks the imag­i­na­tion to life. Through ancient pat­terns of myth and folk­tales sto­ries can allow a trust in pos­si­bil­i­ties to take hold. To apply sto­ry­telling in set­tings for young peo­ple and adults who have expe­ri­enced loss or trau­ma helps cre­ate safe space and gath­er­ing places where deep lis­ten­ing can occur. There are uni­ver­sal truths in sto­ries from all cul­tures. Many sto­ries reflect the inevitabil­i­ty of loss in human life and they speak to our inter­con­nect­ed­ness to each oth­er, to ani­mals, trees, the moon, the stars and to mys­ter­ies beyond us. In this way sto­ries can ease a sense of iso­la­tion and lone­li­ness. Find­ing the right sto­ry for a sit­u­a­tion, a group, or an indi­vid­ual is part of apply­ing sto­ry­telling to spe­cial set­tings and using sto­ries to help oth­ers trust that they can over­come obsta­cles and find their inner strength and courage.

What drew you toward work­ing with refugee and immi­grant chil­dren?

The short answer is that these young peo­ple are my teach­ers! Their deter­mi­na­tion to suc­ceed in high school, con­tin­ue on to col­lege and con­tribute to this coun­try and/or to return to their home­land to help oth­ers inspires me and gives me hope. They dream of becom­ing doc­tors, nurs­es, peace-mak­ers, envi­ron­men­tal­ists, actors, pilots and they do not bemoan the dif­fi­cul­ties they have expe­ri­enced at such a young age. Loss of fam­i­ly mem­bers, life in refugee camps, forced migra­tions, lack of enough food, health care, edu­ca­tion and still they are mod­el cit­i­zens. They are young peo­ple who are hope­ful, curi­ous, and deeply kind who wish to help cre­ate a more peace­ful, humane world.

Stories of Our Arrival poets

The Sto­ries of Our Arrival poets. Edu­ca­tors Car­rie Stradley (front row, left) and Mer­na Hecht (front row, sec­ond from right) feel priv­i­leged to have worked with more than 240 stu­dents over the past six years from 30 coun­tries.

You’re an organ­ic gar­den­er with respect for food tra­di­tions. How did this inspire you for Project Feast and how did the idea of the cook­book, Our Table of Mem­o­ries, with poet­ry and illus­tra­tions come into being?

Our Table of MemoriesWhen I heard about Project Feast and found that it was locat­ed with­in a mile of the school my idea for a col­lab­o­ra­tion sprang in part from years of “hands on” inten­sive gar­den­ing and cook­ing and from a pas­sion for explor­ing dif­fer­ent ways peo­ple across the globe pre­pare and share food. This love of cross cul­tur­al food is some­thing Car­rie and I share. When she heard the idea for col­lab­o­rat­ing with Project Feast her eyes lit up with a “yes!” We both rec­og­nize that when peo­ple leave their home­lands, a deep sense of home remains with them, in part, with eat­ing and grow­ing the foods of their cul­tures. We felt that a food-themed project would gen­er­ate a rich out­pour­ing of poems. Giv­en that food and poet­ry both speak lan­guages of fla­vor, scent, spice, tex­ture, and col­or we want­ed to include illus­tra­tions that would reflect the sen­so­ry feel of the poems — to cre­ate a pre­sen­ta­tion much like a mem­o­rable meal which the eye feasts upon before the palette! We also want­ed to cel­e­brate our stu­dents and the refugee women of Project Feast by includ­ing beloved recipes from their mem­o­ries, their fam­i­lies and their home­lands.

 Can you share a par­tic­u­lar sto­ry from this Project that gave every­one hope?

One of Carrie’s ELL class­es had four­teen boys and only two girls. Hope cer­tain­ly flour­ish­es when a group of ado­les­cent boys, all refugees from dif­fer­ent coun­tries, cul­tures and eth­nic­i­ties, open­ly sup­port and applaud each oth­er for writ­ing poems that are vul­ner­a­ble and emo­tion­al­ly expres­sive. Hope flour­ish­es when they tell us that they’ve found their voic­es and a way to tell their sto­ries through poet­ry. At the project’s con­clu­sion those who wished to apply for a schol­ar­ship were asked to reflect on what they learned from poet­ry. Their replies filled us with hope and in truth, with tears, here are a few short excerpts:

Khai, from Bur­ma

I can speak the truth in the poem I wrote… Poems will make oth­er peo­ple under­stand us (immi­grants). As an immi­grant and a lot of oth­ers who are just like me, we have a vast­ly hard life… One of the ways that we can explain our painful past is only by a POEM, it is the only way to make a con­nec­tion with every­one; poems make us two in one. Poems are vast­ly cru­cial to all of us because poems are ALIVE! There is peace, love, friends, fam­i­ly, and much more in a poem. This is why poems are extreme­ly impor­tant to us (immi­grants) and to every­one who has a heart.

Abdi A.

Abdi A.

Abdi A., from Soma­lia

I was born in a refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya, and lived there most of my life. Writ­ing poems helped me remem­ber and appre­ci­ate what I have now and also helped non-immi­grants to have a bet­ter under­stand­ing of what is it real­ly like to be a young boy with a hope­less dream of becom­ing a doc­tor. I remem­ber a white man who worked with the IOM ask­ing me what my dream was and I told him I want­ed to be a doc­tor and laughed at myself because I thought it was ridicu­lous and ‘’too big’’ for some­one like me. But here I am today liv­ing a hap­py life and work­ing towards my dream… Poet­ry does­n’t just show us how much we share, it helps us see the world in an entire­ly dif­fer­ent way. When I heard Kang Pu’s poem about how his mom died and the strug­gle that his fam­i­ly had and how the gov­ern­ment didn’t even help, I under­stood him bet­ter… Poet­ry is uni­ver­sal. ELLs can learn about or read poet­ry in their pri­ma­ry lan­guage, help­ing them bridge their worlds… I plan on going to a four-year col­lege and I still have that dream of becom­ing a doc­tor, so I can go back home one day and help the sick and the needy.

Has there been an effort made to repli­cate this project in oth­er high schools around the coun­try?

This is a next step that project co-direc­tor and ELL teacher extra­or­di­naire, Car­rie and I have want­ed and intend to accom­plish. Along with the won­der­ful engage­ment and sage advice of John Fox, founder/director of the Insti­tute for Poet­ic Med­i­cine, (we are proud­ly an IPM Poet­ry Part­ner Project) we intend to take the next step and pub­lish a tem­plate of poet­ry prompts and activ­i­ties along with a col­lec­tion of resource mate­r­i­al for repli­cat­ing this poet­ry project.

WHERE TO BUY OUR TABLE OF MEMORIES

The poems in this book are lus­cious but, to tempt you fur­ther, the recipes includes Doro wet: an Ethiopi­an Chick­en Stew (pgs. 120 – 121), Arroz con Leche, (pgs. 130 – 131), Zawng­tah: Burmese Tree Beans with Tilapia (pgs. 136 – 137), Orange Iraqi Teatime Cake (pgs. 154 – 155) and many more. Is  your mouth water­ing yet? Every­thing about this book is invit­ing … you will embrace it!

Pub­lish­er, Chatwin Books

Your Local Book­seller

SAMPLE

Kang Pu

Kang Pu

Here’s a sam­ple of one of the heart-touch­ing poems in Our Table of Mem­o­ries:

MY MOTHER’S KITCHEN
Kang Pu, from Bur­ma

When my mom cooked it smelled of sweet win­ter­time cher­ries,
of a soli­tary for­est with rain falling
and it smelled like the mur­mur of a lone­ly bird, singing,
I pic­ture the spher­i­cal smoke ris­ing from her kitchen
it was like the sound of sleep at night,
it was like arriv­ing home safe and sound
the sounds of her kitchen were peace­ful. 

I still long for the laugh­ter of those fam­i­ly meals
we all wait­ed for that table, my mom’s table,
how she pre­pared every fam­i­ly meal,
this is what I still long for,
so often I remem­ber my moth­er
noth­ing can take her mem­o­ry away from me,
it is tru­ly dif­fi­cult that I have depart­ed
from my moth­er­land,
and from my mother’s kitchen.

Kang Pu – MY MOTHER’S KITCHEN
The rea­son I wrote this poem is for mem­o­ries of my mom and her kitchen. It was dif­fi­cult for me to write this poem because I still long for my mother’s kitchen. Some­times it makes it hard for me to study. Yet, no mat­ter how far away from my par­ents, I am still hold­ing their lessons and still using what they taught me. With­out lessons from par­ents it’s hard to be in com­mu­ni­ty with oth­ers and hard to stand on your own.

Nathaly Rosas

Nathaly Rosas

And anoth­er sam­ple:

WHERE FOOD IS ART
Nathaly Rosas, from Mex­i­co

I am from a place where
The food is an art and every bite
Is a spicy piece of our cul­ture.
Where the smells call you to enjoy
And the fla­vors take you to your mem­o­ries.

Read more poems like these on Mer­na Hecht’s web­site.

RESOURCES

Sto­ries of Immi­gra­tion and Cul­ture” poet­ry pod­casts are avail­able here, host­ed by the Jack Straw Cul­tur­al Cen­ter.

Insti­tute for Poet­ic Med­i­cine, found­ed by John Fox, where Mer­na and Sto­ries of Arrival are Poet­ry Part­ners.

Jack Straw Cul­tur­al Cen­ter

Sto­ries of Arrival: Immi­grant Youth Voic­es Poet­ry Project

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Charles Ghigna, Champion of Poetry

Charles Ghigna

Charles Ghigna at Fox Tale Book Shoppe in Wood­stock, GA

Our thanks to author and poet Charles Ghigna (GEEN-yuh) for tak­ing time out from his writ­ing, school vis­its, and con­fer­ence tours to answer these ques­tions which have been knock-knock-knockin’ on my brain since I first began read­ing his many books of poet­ry and, now, a non­fic­tion book about fas­ci­nat­ing ani­mals!  

Do you remem­ber when you first read a poem and it caught your atten­tion?

Mend­ing Wall” by Robert Frost, Fresh­man Eng­lish class.

At what point in your life did you real­ize you want­ed to write poet­ry? For a liv­ing?

I wrote lit­tle rhyming poems and sto­ries in ele­men­tary school and start­ed keep­ing a dai­ly writ­ing jour­nal in high school. Some of my entries were writ­ten as poems. I con­tin­ued writ­ing and keep­ing jour­nals through my col­lege years. When I began teach­ing high school Eng­lish, I had less time to write and my jour­nal entries began appear­ing as short, poet­ic pieces. That was my deli­cious late night writ­ing time— after grad­ing my stu­dents’ papers. 😉 Lat­er, I sub­mit­ted a few of those ear­ly poems and some of them were pub­lished in Harper’s and oth­er mag­a­zines. A few years lat­er, after my son was born, I began writ­ing poems for chil­dren. It was then I began dream­ing of “writ­ing for a liv­ing.”

What kind of poems did you like when you were young?

As a child I liked poems by Robert Louis Steven­son, Wordsworth, Longfel­low, Kipling, and oth­ers.

How do you stay tuned in to the kinds of poems very young chil­dren like?

I’m on the road this month vis­it­ing schools while pro­mot­ing my new Ani­mal Plan­et book. It’s easy to stay tuned in to the kinds of poems the very young like by see­ing so many “chil­dren’s faces look­ing up hold­ing won­der like a cup.” 

Score!50 Poems to Motivate and InspireI admire your book Score! 50 Poems to Moti­vate and Inspire. With the empha­sis on growth mind­set in class­rooms, it occurred to me that each of these poems could be used as a black­board or white­board encour­age­ment, a dis­cus­sion starter. The illus­tra­tions are excel­lent exam­ples of graph­ic design — they add even more depth to each poem. As teach­ers work with stu­dents to build graph­ic design skills, this is a men­tor text on sev­er­al lev­els. (In spite of the cov­er, this is not a sports-cen­tric book.)

Vic­ki, thank you so much for ask­ing about my Score! book. That book is near and dear to my heart. It was a true labor of love. I always want­ed to write a book of short quotable poems for young peo­ple to use when they need­ed a lit­tle extra nudge to keep them going toward their dreams. I want­ed to cre­ate a book of poems to inspire and moti­vate. I was thrilled to have Abrams pub­lish that book and even more thrilled to watch it become a pop­u­lar resource for teach­ers, coach­es, and par­ents. I’m hap­py to report the book has been adopt­ed by school sys­tems to use in their char­ac­ter edu­ca­tion pro­grams with prin­ci­pals read­ing a poem a day from it dur­ing their morn­ing announce­ments.

Strange, Unusual, Gross & Cool AnimalsYour newest book, Ani­mal Plan­et Strange, Unusu­al, Gross & Cool Ani­mals, appeals to any kid who’s lived around ani­mals or yearns to wel­come ani­mals in their lives. Do you have ani­mals around you?

Yes, but all my ani­mal friends are free range. I have a hawk who lives in a near­by tree and cir­cles over my tree­house each day to say hel­lo, a mul­ti­tude of squir­rels and chip­munks I watch from my win­dow, and two jew­eled hum­ming­birds who come each day to drink from the feed­er. I would add the menagerie of mon­archs that have been danc­ing out­side my win­dow this sum­mer, but they have since flown far­ther south for the win­ter. My hum­ming­birds will no doubt soon join them on their way south.

This book is a depar­ture from your poet­ry — how did you come to work on this project?

Yes, this book was a “depar­ture” for me. I wrote a piece for the Bermu­da Onion about how the project came to be. The first para­graph explains how the project got start­ed. 

I had just fin­ished spend­ing near­ly a year writ­ing a six-book ani­mal series for tod­dlers when the phone rang. It was a Time Inc edi­tor in New York ask­ing if I might be inter­est­ed in writ­ing a 128-page book for Ani­mal Plan­et about strange, unusu­al, gross, and cool ani­mals for kids ages 8 – 12. Sure. And it’s due in nine months. Wait. What? Let me think about it. I’ve writ­ten more than 100 books, but I’ve nev­er writ­ten a big, non­fic­tion, research-based book. I do write a lot about ani­mals though. Most­ly in rhyme. Most­ly for tod­dlers. Sure. What the heck. I can do that. Wait. Did you say nine months?” (read the full essay by Charles here)

Have you always lived in Alaba­ma?

I’ve lived in Alaba­ma for more than 40 years now. I was at Flori­da State Uni­ver­si­ty serv­ing as poet­ry edi­tor of Eng­lish Jour­nal when I received a two-year grant from the Nation­al Coun­cil on the Arts & Human­i­ties to begin the first Poet-in-the-Schools pro­gram for the state of Alaba­ma. I fell in love with this beau­ti­ful state — and with my wife. Peo­ple say to me, “You’re a writer. You could live any­where in the world.” I always smile and say, “Yes, I know. That’s why I live in Alaba­ma.”

Who have your poet­ic men­tors been?

Too many men­tors to name, but my very first poet­ic men­tor was my moth­er. She was the most cre­ative, inspir­ing “kid” I ever knew. She made each day an adven­ture. She had mag­ic in her eyes and she chal­lenged me to dream big — and to fol­low those dreams. I also had a high school Eng­lish teacher who on Fri­days told us to close our books, look out the win­dow, and make up sto­ries and poems. 

Tickle DayHow did you get the name Father Goose?

Many years ago when I first start­ed vis­it­ing schools, stu­dents and teach­ers began call­ing me “Father Goose.” The name stuck. It was a lot eas­i­er to say than Mr. Ghigna — and a lot eas­i­er to spell. The Walt Dis­ney Com­pa­ny sug­gest­ed I use that moniker for one of my first books with them, Tick­le Day: Poems from Father Goose. They cre­at­ed the first image of Father Goose. Since then my oth­er pub­lish­ers and illus­tra­tors have con­tin­ued the tra­di­tion, often includ­ing a goose or two in my books. I’m called Father Goose now more often than my real name!

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Thanksgiving is a Good Time for a Book

Thanks­giv­ing is fast approach­ing, As food is being pre­pared and fam­i­ly gath­ers, as food is being digest­ed and some peo­ple are nap­ping, as sports and shop­ping beck­on, per­haps it’s a good time to take out a stack of Thanks­giv­ing books to read aloud as a fam­i­ly. Here are 11 books that reflect the Thanks­giv­ing hol­i­day with many dif­fer­ent sto­ries, rang­ing in age from very young to teens … with books adults will enjoy as well. Hap­py Thanks­giv­ing!

1621: a New Look at Thanksgiving  

1621: a New Look at Thanks­giv­ing 
writ­ten by Cather­ine O’Neill Grace
Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Chil­dren’s Books, 2004

Coun­ter­ing the pre­vail­ing, tra­di­tion­al sto­ry of the first Thanks­giv­ing, with its black-hat­ted, sil­ver-buck­led Pil­grims; blan­ket-clad, be-feath­ered Indi­ans; cran­ber­ry sauce; pump­kin pie; and turkey, this lush­ly illus­trat­ed pho­to-essay presents a more mea­sured, bal­anced, and his­tor­i­cal­ly accu­rate ver­sion of the three-day har­vest cel­e­bra­tion in 1621.”

 

Bal­loons Over Broad­way:
the True Sto­ry of the Pup­peteer of Macy’s Parade

writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Melis­sa Sweet
Houghton Mif­flin Har­court, 2011

Everyone’s a New York­er on Thanks­giv­ing Day, when young and old rise ear­ly to see what giant new bal­loons will fill the skies for Macy’s Thanks­giv­ing Day Parade. Who first invent­ed these “upside-down pup­pets”? Meet Tony Sarg, pup­peteer extra­or­di­naire! In bril­liant col­lage illus­tra­tions, Melis­sa Sweet tells the sto­ry of the pup­peteer Tony Sarg, cap­tur­ing his genius, his ded­i­ca­tion, his zest for play, and his long-last­ing gift to Amer­i­ca — the inspired heli­um bal­loons that would become the trade­mark of Macy’s Parade.”

Boy in the Black Suit  

Boy in the Black Suit
writ­ten by Jason Reynolds
Atheneum, 2016

A book for old­er chil­dren and adults, Mat­t’s moth­er has just died and his father isn’t doing well. Mat­t’s on his own so he gets a job at a funer­al home, where he’s sur­prised by how mov­ing he finds the sto­ries behind these funer­als. When he meets one young woman whose beloved grand­moth­er just died, he goes on his first “date” with her … at the home­less shel­ter where she and her grand­moth­er have always served Thanks­giv­ing din­ner. This is an uplift­ing sto­ry of friend­ship, car­ing, and heal­ing.

Cranberry Thanksgiving  

Cran­ber­ry Thanks­giv­ing
writ­ten by Wende Devlin
illus­trat­ed by Har­ry Devlin
Pur­ple House Press, 2012

First pub­lished in 1971, this beloved favorite shares the sto­ry of Grand­moth­er invit­ing a guest for Thanks­giv­ing din­ner and allow­ing Mag­gie to do the same. “Ask some­one poor or lone­ly,” she always said. Thanks­giv­ing was Grand­moth­er’s favorite day of the year. The cook­ing was done and her famous cran­ber­ry bread was cool­ing on a wood­en board. But she was­n’t hap­py to find out Mag­gie had invit­ed the unsa­vory Mr. Whiskers to din­ner. Would her secret cran­ber­ry bread recipe be safe with him in the house?”

Give Thanks to the Lord  

Give Thanks to the Lord
writ­ten by Kar­ma Wil­son
illus­trat­ed by Amy June Bates
Zon­derkidz, 2013

Cel­e­brate the sea­son in this heart­warm­ing sto­ry that ref­er­ences Psalm 92 in ten­der rhyme from award-win­ning author Kar­ma Wil­son. Told from the point of view of one young mem­ber of an extend­ed fam­i­ly, Give Thanks to the Lord cel­e­brates joy of all kinds, from the arrival of dis­tant rel­a­tives to a cozy house already filled with mer­ri­ment, to apple cider and the deli­cious smells of roast­ing turkey and bak­ing pie.  And just when your mouth is water­ing, sit down and join a thank­ful child in prayer, prais­ing God for ‘food and fun and fam­i­ly, all the won­der­ful things I see.’ ”

Giving Thanks  

Giv­ing Thanks:
Poems, Prayers, and Praise Songs of Thanks­giv­ing 

writ­ten by Kather­ine Pater­son
illus­trat­ed by Pamela Dal­ton
Chron­i­cle Books, 2013

Kather­ine Pater­son­’s med­i­ta­tions on what it means to be tru­ly grate­ful and Pamela Dal­ton’s exquis­ite cut-paper illus­tra­tions are paired with a col­lec­tion of over 50 graces, poems, and praise songs from a wide range of cul­tures, reli­gions, and voic­es. The unique col­lab­o­ra­tion between these two extra­or­di­nary artists flow­ers in this impor­tant and stun­ning­ly beau­ti­ful reflec­tion on the act of giv­ing thanks.”

Gracias, the Thanksgiving Turkey  

Gra­cias, the Thanks­giv­ing Turkey
writ­ten by Joy Cow­ley
illus­trat­ed by Joe Cepe­da
Harper­Collins, reis­sued in 2006

Miguel’s truck­er father is on the road and Miguel is wor­ried about him mak­ing it home in time for Thanks­giv­ing. But then Papa sends a big wood­en crate with the mes­sage, “Fat­ten this turkey for Thanks­giv­ing. I’ll be home to share it with you.” Miguel names the turkey Gra­cias and takes him for walks in New York City. Adven­tures fol­lows. Miguel wants des­per­ate­ly to save Gra­cias from the Thanks­giv­ing table. Fun and high-spir­it­ed tale.

How Many Days to America?  

How Many Days to Amer­i­ca? a Thanks­giv­ing Sto­ry
writ­ten by Eve Bunting
illus­trat­ed by Beth Peck
Houghton Mif­flin Har­court, 1990

When sol­diers come to their home in the mid­dle of the night, father and moth­er decide they must flee their coun­try for their fam­i­ly’s safe­ty. This is the tale of that jour­ney and their land­ing in Amer­i­ca on the Thanks­giv­ing hol­i­day, where the fam­i­ly is thank­ful for free­dom and safe­ty.

Squanto's Journey  

Squan­to’s Jour­ney: The Sto­ry of the First Thanks­giv­ing 
writ­ten by Joseph Bruchac
illus­trat­ed by Greg Shed
Sil­ver Whis­tle, 2000

In 1620 an Eng­lish ship called the Mayflower land­ed on the shores inhab­it­ed by the Pokanoket peo­ple, and it was Squan­to who wel­comed the new­com­ers and taught them how to sur­vive in the rugged land they called Ply­mouth. He showed them how to plant corn, beans, and squash, and how to hunt and fish. And when a good har­vest was gath­ered in the fall, the two peo­ples feast­ed togeth­er in the spir­it of peace and broth­er­hood.”

Thankful  

Thank­ful
writ­ten by Eileen Spinel­li
illus­trat­ed by Archie Pre­ston
Zon­derkidz, 2016

A book that con­veys “the impor­tance of being thank­ful for every­day bless­ings. Like the gar­den­er thank­ful for every green sprout, and the fire­man, for putting the fire out, read­ers are encour­aged to be thank­ful for the many bless­ings they find in their lives.”

Thanks a Million  

Thanks a Mil­lion
writ­ten by Nik­ki Grimes
illus­trat­ed by Cozbi A. Cabr­era
Green­wil­low Books, 2006

A very appro­pri­ate book for your Thanks­giv­ing cel­e­bra­tion, there are six­teen poems that range in form from a haiku to a rebus to a rid­dle, Nik­ki Grimes reminds us how won­der­ful it is to feel thank­ful, and how pow­er­ful a sim­ple “thank you” can be. This book can be used through­out the year as well. In class­rooms, this is a good men­tor text for cre­at­ing poems of thanks and grat­i­tude.

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Word Search: Jazz Day

Jazz DayWere you already a jazz affi­ciona­do? Love groovin’ to the tunes? Or did read­ing Jazz Day: the Mak­ing of a Famous Pho­to­graph by Rox­ane Orgill, with inspired illus­tra­tions by Fran­cis Valle­jo, draw you clos­er to the some­times ener­getic, some­times mel­low, but always riv­et­ing music we call JAZZ? If you love puz­zles and games, we hope you have a good time solv­ing this Word Search. 

Sim­ply use your mouse or touch pad to draw a line over your found words and the pro­gram will mark them off for you. Words can be found for­wards, back­wards, hor­i­zon­tal­ly, ver­ti­cal­ly, and diag­o­nal­ly. As you find a word, it will be high­light­ed on the board and it will dis­ap­pear from the word list.

Have fun!

Hid­den Words

Puz­zle by mypuzzle.org
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Reading Memories

bk_threelittlekittensMem­o­ries of my child­hood are imper­fect. Yours, too?

I don’t remem­ber hav­ing a lot of books as a child. I remem­ber The Poky Lit­tle Pup­py and anoth­er dog book (title unknown) and Three Lit­tle Kit­tens (per­haps a reminder to me to keep track of my mit­tens).

I remem­ber using the school library vora­cious­ly to read books. I had no access to the pub­lic library (too far away) so that school library was my life­line. And our librar­i­an under­stood what I was look­ing for before I did.

But back to the ques­tion of hav­ing books on our shelves. My moth­er had a Dou­ble­day Book Club sub­scrip­tion so a new book arrived each month for the adult read­er in our fam­i­ly. I saw To Kill a Mock­ing­bird, Catch­er in the Rye, The Light in the Piaz­za, and The Sun Also Ris­es added to the shelves, but oth­er than curios­i­ty, I felt no inter­est in those books.

My moth­er also sub­scribed to Reader’s Digest. We had a lot of music in our house in the form of LPs. Some of my favorites were those Read­ers Digest col­lec­tions, clas­sics, folk songs, Broad­way musi­cals. There was always music on the turntable. More impor­tant­ly, Reader’s Digest pub­lished sto­ry col­lec­tions and books for chil­dren.  

Yes­ter­day, I was sort­ing through the three box­es that remain of my child­hood toys and books. We’re down­siz­ing, so the tough deci­sions have to be made. Do I keep my hand pup­pets of Lamb Chop, Char­lie Horse, and Hush Pup­py or let them go?

Reader's Digest Treasury for Young ReadersI know I’ve gone through these box­es since I was a kid but every ten years or so I’m sur­prised all over again by what I played with as a child and cared enough to pack in a box for remem­brance.

I found two Reader’s Digest Trea­suries for Young Read­ers and the three-vol­ume Dou­ble­day Fam­i­ly Trea­sury of Children’s Sto­ries.  My moth­er also sub­scribed to the Reader’s Digest Best Loved Books for Young Read­ers. This is how I read Lor­na Doone and Ivan­hoe and Where the Red Fern Grows.

I was star­tled to real­ize that my famil­iar­i­ty with many of the clas­sic poems, sto­ries, and non­fic­tion arti­cles came from these books. I was intro­duced to Dorothy Can­field Fish­er and Eliz­a­beth Janet Gray and Dr. George Wash­ing­ton Carv­er and Jules Verne and The Odyssey and NASA’s work and more than a hun­dred more sto­ries and arti­cles. I’d like to believe that I’m an omniv­o­rous read­er today because of the wide vari­ety I encoun­tered in these books.

The Family Treasury of Children's BooksThere’s a pen­chant for every­thing new right now. Grand­par­ents pick up the lat­est Dora the Explor­er or Where’s Wal­do? book because they’ve heard of them and have a vague sense that kids like them. Or the book­store clerk sug­gests a Calde­cott or New­bery win­ner of recent vin­tage.

This is a plea to remem­ber those clas­sic books: the sto­ries, the folk tales, the fables, the poet­ry. Chil­dren will read a lot that you wouldn’t expect them to read, espe­cial­ly if you give it to them. Those clas­sics pro­vide a com­mon lan­guage for edu­cat­ed peo­ple.

Can’t find some­thing suit­able? Write to your favorite pub­lish­er and sug­gest that they print col­lec­tions of clas­sics, old and new. There are a few books pub­lished in the last 20 years that sort of approach these col­lec­tions pub­lished in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Here are a few:

Story Collections

Per­haps 50 years from now your chil­dren and grand­chil­dren will open their own box of child­hood mem­o­ries, being thank­ful that you gave them such a great gift.

Thanks, Mom. You gave me a gift that has sus­tained me all my life.

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Dear Poet: Notes to a Young Writer

Charles Gigna

Charles Ghigna (pho­to: Scott Pierce)

This month Charles Ghigna, well-known as the poet Father Goose, offers “Dear Poet: Notes to a Young Writer.” There is much to pon­der here, no mat­ter what your age might be, but young writ­ers espe­cial­ly will find these words of encour­age­ment to be use­ful and inspi­ra­tional. For exam­ple:

Trust
your instincts
to write.

Ques­tion
your rea­sons
not to.

How many times do you tell your­self you should­n’t be writ­ing poet­ry? When that’s what you real­ly want to do?

Enjoy these poems and take them to heart: you, too, are a poet.

Do you teach chil­dren to write poet­ry? The stan­zas of “Dear Poet” are short gems that will give you and your stu­dents good ideas for dis­cus­sions.

Charles is a pro­lif­ic poet, pub­lish­ing books for chil­dren, teens, and adults, who lives and writes in Alaba­ma. Here are some of his recent titles.

Charles Ghigna Books

 

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Melissa Sweet

In this inter­view with Melis­sa Sweet, illus­tra­tor of A Riv­er of Words: The Sto­ry of William Car­los Williams, our Book­storm™ this monthwe asked six ques­tions and Melis­sa kind­ly took time from her busy days of vis­it­ing schools and cre­at­ing art.

A River of WordsDo you recall the first time you encoun­tered a William Car­los Williams poem?

My first intro­duc­tion to William Car­los Williams was when I was sev­en years old and went to the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art. I saw a  paint­ing by Williams’s  friend Charles Demuth, based on Williams’s poem “The Great Fig­ure.” I loved both the paint­ing and the poem.

The Great Figure

Do you have a list of Most Favorite Poets? Was William Car­los Williams on that list before you began the research for this book? Is he on that list now?

My short list is Mary Oliv­er, Bil­ly Collins, and, yes, William Car­los Williams is now on that list.

When you begin to illus­trate a book like this, what is your very first step? And what do you do next?

William Carlos Williams prescription padFirst I decide how and where to research. I’m look­ing for clues as to what to draw to inspire the illus­tra­tions. For this book I read biogra­phies about Williams, his poet­ry, and news­pa­per arti­cles about him. It was impor­tant to trav­el to Ruther­ford and Pat­ter­son, NJ, to see where he lived and worked. At the Ruther­ford Pub­lic Library, I saw his bowler hat, his man­u­al type­writer,  and the pre­scrip­tion pads he used as a doc­tor. All those things became inspi­ra­tion for the art. Then, back in the stu­dio, I make a dum­my plac­ing the words on the page and begin to sketch to out the paint­ings or col­lages. Last­ly, I make the final art.

A River of WordsIn the book, we see hand­writ­ten bits of poet­ry in sev­er­al dif­fer­ent styles of hand­writ­ing and we also see type­set scraps of paper as well as intrigu­ing bits of type. Do you cre­ate these by hand? By com­put­er? With friend­ly help?

All my art is cre­at­ed by hand — I don’t use the com­put­er to make the illus­tra­tions. I cut up old books and use let­ter­ing from wher­ev­er I can find it. Incor­po­rat­ing cal­lig­ra­phy and hand – let­ter­ing into the art makes the piece more fun and live­ly. A type­set font would look very dif­fer­ent, maybe some­what sta­t­ic. In A Riv­er of Words I recre­at­ed Williams’s hand­writ­ing in places, and hand – let­tered his poems with­in the art. The con­tent of the poems became the inspi­ra­tion for what to draw.

A River of WordsAre there entire spreads you pre­pare that don’t make the final cut of the book? When you send the illus­tra­tion in for review by the edi­tor or art direc­tor, do you leave things unglued so they can be moved if request­ed? And what do you use to affix the parts of your col­lage? 

Some­times spreads need to be redone, but rarely. The edi­tor and art direc­tor see the dum­my, but typ­i­cal­ly they don’t see the art in progress, just the final art. It’s dif­fi­cult to plan or sketch a col­lage – it hap­pens as you go along adding and sub­tract­ing ele­ments to make it work visu­al­ly. (Even I don’t know exact­ly how the art will look in the end!) I use stick glue, white glue, and depend­ing on the mate­ri­als, I might need some­thing strong like epoxy. Kids often ask how my arts gets “in” the book. My work is gen­er­al­ly pho­tographed since there is too much dimen­sion in the pieces to scan them. Those pho­tos are down­loaded to the design­er and the text is added dig­i­tal­ly.

If you had met William Car­los Williams, what ques­tion would you have asked him?

I have two ques­tions: Where was the red wheel­bar­row? What did you think when you first saw it?

illus­tra­tions in this arti­cle are copy­right © Melis­sa Sweet

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Jen Bryant

In this inter­view with Jen Bryant, author of A Riv­er of Words: The Sto­ry of William Car­los Williams, our Book­storm™ this month.

A River of WordsDo you recall the first time you encoun­tered a William Car­los Williams poem?

I was in high school — and it was part of an anthol­o­gy read­ing that we did for Eng­lish class. I had disliked/not understood/ been unmoved by all of the oth­er poems in this assigned read­ing (I recall that the lan­guage in those poems was archa­ic and flow­ery, and the forms very, VERY tra­di­tion­al) — and then — whooosh — like a breath of fresh air, here were a few select­ed W. C. Williams poems, which used lit­tle punc­tu­a­tion, were freeform in struc­ture, and focused on every­day scenes and real life. They were the first poems I enjoyed and felt “wel­comed” into.

Do you have a list of Most Favorite Poets? Was William Car­los Williams on that list before you began the research for this book? Is he on that list now?

He’s def­i­nite­ly on the list — and there are too many oth­ers to name here, so I’ll just start by list­ing a few of them: Emi­ly Dick­in­son, Mary Oliv­er, Yusef Komun­yakaa, Wen­dell Berry, William Stafford, Rita Dove, Marge Pier­cy, Robert Frost, Lucille Clifton, Phillip Levine, Mar­i­lyn Nel­son, Gary Soto, Gal­way Kinell, Eamon Gren­nan, Jane Keny­on … (see? way too many!)

When you turned your man­u­script in to your edi­tor, did you envi­sion how the book might be illus­trat­ed? What do you think when you first saw Melis­sa Sweet’s ideas for illus­trat­ing Williams’ life?

Melis­sa and I did not know each oth­er before Eerd­mans paired us for this book. Gayle Brown, the art direc­tor at EBYR, chose Melis­sa as the illus­tra­tor — and I believe that this sin­gle act has influ­enced my writ­ing life ever since! I’d already writ­ten three pic­ture book biogra­phies on cre­ative peo­ple (O’Keeffe, Mes­si­aen, and Moore) and I had nev­er met ANY of those illus­tra­tors. All of their styles were very dis­tinct, very dif­fer­ent from one another’s — so, no, I had no clue what an illus­tra­tor would do with this text. You can just imag­ine my reac­tion when I saw Melissa’s art for this book … I wept with hap­pi­ness. She’s tru­ly amaz­ing.

A River of Words

How did you find infor­ma­tion about this poet’s younger years?

I had to piece scenes togeth­er from many dif­fer­ent sources: fore­words and pref­aces to poet­ry col­lec­tions, a few audio record­ings, an old film, some archival records, etc. The key, though, was to keep the riv­er as the cen­tral image around which the rest of the sto­ry could spin. Once I had made that deci­sion, the rest became a bit eas­i­er.

A River of WordsDid you have to cut much mate­r­i­al from your orig­i­nal con­cept of the book? Did you go through a few revi­sions with the edi­tor or many revi­sions with the edi­tor?

I always pre­fer to give the edi­tors more than they need — then let them give me feed­back on which scenes/stanzas are more com­pelling and which are redun­dant or less com­pelling (and thus can be cut.) Yes, there were on-going revi­sions with this man­u­script — but if I recall cor­rect­ly, the orig­i­nal­ly-sub­mit­ted ver­sion was the one that was sent to Melis­sa and she got start­ed from that text. We didn’t make HUGE changes to this sto­ry, but we tweaked word­ing here and there — and then the back mat­ter was added lat­er on.

If you had met William Car­los Williams, what ques­tion would you have asked him?

If you had been able to quit your day-job (as a physi­cian) and could sup­port your fam­i­ly full-time by writ­ing, would you have done that? OR, did your dai­ly rounds — with all kinds of patients and in many dif­fer­ent set­tings — feed your art so much that you need­ed to do both in order to write well?”

___________________________________________

Jen, thank you for shar­ing your answers with our read­ers. Your style of writ­ing biogra­phies is so unique, and so well researched, that it’s valu­able for us to know more about the process of this book’s cre­ation.

For use with your stu­dents, Jen’s web­site includes a dis­cus­sion guide that you’ll find use­ful as you incor­po­rate this book into your plan­ning.

illus­tra­tions in this arti­cle are copy­right © Melis­sa Sweet

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Treasure Hunt

gemsOne of my favorite road-trip mem­o­ries is “mud-pud­dling” in west­ern North Car­oli­na. We had fol­lowed signs that lured us in with the promise of gem­stones prac­ti­cal­ly free for the tak­ing. The space we wan­dered into looked like a road­side pic­nic area, and seemed ide­al for the kind of lazy after­noon we had in mind. We each pur­chased buck­ets of dirt-cov­ered rocks for a small fee, and then claimed our places along
a bench in front of a trough of run­ning water.

While sun­shine dap­pled the green of the sur­round­ing hills, my best friend and I revert­ed back to one of the great delights of child­hood: muck­ing about. We played in the mud­dy water, wash­ing off our piles of rocks, con­vinced each time that the nat­ur­al beau­ty of a stone was revealed that we had dis­cov­ered a fab­u­lous trea­sure. Could this be a ruby? An emer­ald? A sap­phire?

We left a few hours lat­er with noth­ing more than a pile of pret­ty rocks. But we had found some­thing much more valu­able in our trea­sure hunt than a gem­stone: one per­fect after­noon, reclaimed briefly from a child­hood we’d both left behind long before.

Words are the trea­sures I’ve car­ried for­ward with me from that child­hood; I’ve been col­lect­ing my favorites for most of my life: Col­ly­wob­bles. Lugubri­ous. Gob­bledy­gook. Insou­ciance.

Why not spend a few moments on a per­fect after­noon tak­ing your stu­dents on a lin­guis­tic trea­sure hunt? Ask them to them crack open the dic­tio­nary and write down one or more new word “gems” and their mean­ings. Have them use these new-found words to inspire their own poems, or cre­ate a col­lec­tive class poem by swirling all the words togeth­er.

I’ve made a career out of prov­ing that there are lots of trea­sures to be found when you go muck­ing about amidst
words.

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Bookstorm™: A River of Words

 

Bookmap for A River of Words

A River of WordsAuthor Jen Bryant and illus­tra­tor Melis­sa Sweet have teamed up on a num­ber of pic­ture book biogra­phies about cre­ative artists. We’ve cho­sen to fea­ture their very first col­lab­o­ra­tion dur­ing this month in which poet­ry takes the spot­light. By telling us the true sto­ry about poet William Car­los Williams’ child­hood and grow­ing up, with his clear poet­ry sur­round­ing the pages, they awak­en inter­est in young peo­ple who may think this no-longer-liv­ing, ancient (he was born in 1883 and died in 1963) poet is not with­in reach. They’ll be sur­prised by how his poet­ry will touch them. And he made a career for him­self as a poet while he was being a coun­try doc­tor! What an inter­est­ing fel­low.

We trust you will find this mon­th’s Book­storm use­ful for teach­ing poet­ry, teach­ing writ­ing, units on nature, talk­ing about non­fic­tion and biog­ra­phy … and enjoy­ing the qui­eter moments when read­ing poet­ry is one of life’s plea­sures.

For more infor­ma­tion and dis­cus­sion guides, vis­it Jen Bryant’ web­site.

You can learn more about Melis­sa Sweet, the illus­tra­tor

Downloadables

 

 

BOOKSTORM TOPICS

Pic­ture Book Biogra­phies of Poets. From Shake­speare to Woody Guthrie, from Dave the Pot­ter to Pablo Neru­da, you’ll find top-notch biogra­phies of poets with whom kids find con­nec­tion. Sev­er­al of these are excel­lent men­tor texts as well.

Biogra­phies of Poets for Old­er Read­ers. If you’d like to use A Riv­er of Words with old­er grades, we’ve includ­ed a few biogra­phies that pair well. For instance, you’ll find Pablo Neru­da: Poet of the Peo­ple (Mon­i­ca Brown and Julie Paschkis) on the pic­ture book side and Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Dream­er, also about the Chilean poet Pablo Neru­da, for the more com­fort­able read­ers.

Revolv­ing Around William Car­los Williams. We’ve rec­om­mend­ed a biog­ra­phy writ­ten for adults, a col­lec­tion of Mr. Williams’ poems for chil­dren, and a book that was inspired by his poem, “This is Just to Say.”

Kids and Nature. Nature-deficit dis­or­der is on many edu­ca­tors’ minds. William Car­los Williams had a sig­nif­i­cant con­nec­tion to nature. He wrote about it often. We’ve includ­ed books with ter­rif­ic ideas for enthus­ing chil­dren about going out­doors, both unplugged and plugged-in.

Col­lage and Mixed-Media Illus­tra­tions. Do the types of illus­tra­tion con­fuse you? We’ll have an inter­view with Melis­sa Sweet this month that we hope will make you feel more com­fort­able dis­cussing the art in A Riv­er of Words. We’ve sug­gest­ed a few books that also use a mixed media style.

Let us know how you are mak­ing use of this Book­storm™. Share your ideas and any oth­er books you’d add to this Book­storm™.

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The Jungle Book

The Jungle BookThe word exquis­ite once won the game for me while play­ing Pass­word. I have been fond of that word since that time and look for instances where it applies. That is sure­ly the illus­trat­ed edi­tion of The Jun­gle Book, writ­ten by Rud­yard Kipling all of those years ago, and new­ly illus­trat­ed by Nico­la Bay­ley. Can­dlewick pub­lished this edi­tion of the clas­sic sto­ries and their clas­sics are worth col­lect­ing, read­ing, and trea­sur­ing. They should be well-worn on the book­shelves in your home.

I first read The Jun­gle Book when I was ten. I don’t remem­ber any illus­tra­tions in the Reader’s Digest Con­densed Books ver­sion but I remem­ber that this book made a big impres­sion on me. It was so “oth­er.” It was not the world I knew and it was larg­er than the farm dogs and pet cats I observed. It gave me a sense of the world beyond my vision. I believe it can still do that for read­ers today.

Bagheera and Mowgli by Nicola BayleyThe sto­ry of Mowgli and his wolf-pack, of Shere Khan, the tiger who believes Mowgli is his to dis­pose of as he wish­es, of Baloo and Kaa and Bagheera … is as cap­ti­vat­ing now as I remem­ber read­ing it as a child. There is such dig­ni­ty and grace in the words that Kipling wrote, the sto­ries he weaves with fierce­ness and humor and respect, that The Jun­gle Book tran­scends time. Who would not be fas­ci­nat­ed by this sto­ry of a young boy (cub) who is adopt­ed by a wolf pack, grows up believ­ing he is a wolf, and then must re-join the world of man when the ani­mals judge it is time. He lives in the jun­gle, is accus­tomed to the ways of the ani­mal tribes, and this nev­er leaves him, espe­cial­ly in his deal­ing with humans.

Midday Nap by Nicola BayleyThe book is such a treat to read because the visu­al expe­ri­ence is so reward­ing. There are rich­ly-col­ored bor­ders and sump­tu­ous sto­ry-divid­ing pages with pat­terns evoca­tive of India, where The Jun­gle Book takes place. Every spread has some illus­tra­tion it, done in col­ored pen­cil, that set the scene or enhance the sto­ry­telling or give us a glimpse of Mowgli and the ani­mals. The full-page illus­tra­tions are riv­et­ing.

You’ve read before of my fond­ness for “but­ter cov­ers,” dust jack­ets fin­ished with a smooth and tan­gi­bly soft cov­er that invites hold­ing and read­ing. This book has such a cov­er and it is irre­sistible. (I made that term up, by the way. Don’t try Googling it.)

In the “Word” at the begin­ning of the book, Nico­la Bay­ley writes, “I’d been to India and vis­it­ed all sorts of places you wouldn’t nor­mal­ly see, and I went to libraries in Lon­don to find out what the coun­try was like in Kipling’s time.”

In the author’s bio on the jack­et flap, we learn that “Rud­yard Kipling (1865−1936) was born in India and spent his ear­ly child­hood there. He lived a migra­to­ry life: edu­cat­ed in Eng­land, he returned to India in 1882, then met his wife in Lon­don and spent the ear­ly years of their mar­riage in Ver­mont, even­tu­al­ly set­tling in Eng­land. The most famous writer of his time, Rud­yard Kipling was award­ed the Nobel Prize in lit­er­a­ture in 1907, thir­teen years after the pub­li­ca­tion of The Jun­gle Book.” His writ­ing is a look into his world and his time, his expe­ri­ence, his feel­ings about life.

This edi­tion of The Jun­gle Book is exquis­ite. I rec­om­mend it high­ly for your fam­i­ly read-aloud time, for young and old­er. Don’t skip over the poet­ry. Its rhythm and words are part of the expe­ri­ence. It will give you much to dis­cuss and a world to explore.

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Molting Advice

Debra FrasierI just sur­vived the Great Bliz­zard of 2016 from a cab­in atop a moun­tain in west­ern North Car­oli­na. When the snow and wind stopped we emerged into a soft, untouched world. Tall snow-heavy pines. Lay­ers of Blue Ridge moun­tains now white. Silent.

We shov­eled.

Two days lat­er I could final­ly dri­ve down the moun­tain to a friend’s home and there, on the twist­ing creek­side road, two red car­di­nals sud­den­ly crossed in front of my car. Pierc­ing red. An event last­ing no longer than two sec­onds.

I should men­tion that I am cur­rent­ly artis­ti­cal­ly lost. Me, who once gave lec­tures on what to do when lost. I am more than lost. Psy­chi­cal­ly molt­ing, I am the lob­ster who has out­grown a shell and shiv­ers naked behind the coral arch, wait­ing for some­thing dread­ful to hap­pen, or, in more hope­ful moments, the cater­pil­lar turned to mush with absolute­ly no brain to even invent a con­cep­tion of the future. Every assured being amazes me — tree, bird, human — how can any­thing have such strength, bones, shell, wings, pur­pose?

Debra Frasier letter forms

Those two sec­onds of red birds flash­ing mag­ic in front of my car’s first post-bliz­zard trip pierce this mush. But, I argue, what will it pos­si­bly mat­ter if I try to put words to this tiny, tiny, star­tling moment?

Car­di­nals’ wings cross,
quick red threads stitch tree to tree
on snowbed’s white quilt.

Lat­er, THIS quote cross­es my Face­book (oh, inad­e­qua­cy!) feed:

The world is full of mag­ic things
patient­ly wait­ing for our sens­es to grow sharp­er.”  
W.B. Yeats

In the dark the mush tremors slight­ly.

So I try again:

Star­tled red wings cross—
two sud­den car­di­nal threads
stitch­ing winter’s quilt.

Yes. Yeats speaks to ME on Face­book, of all god­for­sak­en places.
Artist wakes artist.

I sud­den­ly real­ize:
This is what we do to form the long buck­et brigade to save each oth­er.

Red flash­es, flick, flick,
Two car­di­nal threads cross-stitch
The slow falling snow.

Debra Frasier Calligraphy

This is the advice I heard deep inside the molt­ing mush: for­get every­thing, every long­ing for mean­ing or con­tri­bu­tion, for rich­es, for applause. Sim­ply do this:

Grow your sens­es sharp­er.

Yeats told me. On Face­book.

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Brown Girl Dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming

There is a sil­ly debate tak­ing place about whether adults who read children’s books, includ­ing young adult books, are infan­tile and should have their driver’s licens­es revoked because they’re obvi­ous­ly not mature enough to play dodge ‘em cars on the free­way and text while their two thou­sand pound vehi­cle hur­tles down the road. Grown up, indeed!… more
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The Crossover

The Crossover
Kwame Alexan­der
Houghton Mif­flin Har­court From the moment I began read­ing this poet­ry col­lec­tion, I knew it was a dif­fer­ent type of book because the rhythms, the cadence, were infused with ener­gy and aware­ness. The Crossover is pri­mar­i­ly free verse, with a few hiphop, rhyth­mic poems that change up the action. The nar­ra­tor, Josh, or Filthy McNasty as his bas­ket­ball per­sona is proud to be called, is buoy­ant, obser­vant, filled with sports metaphors, and adept at word­play.… more
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A Time to Dance

A Time to Dance
Pad­ma Venka­tra­man
Nan­cy Paulsen Books / Pen­guin Put­nam Dis­claimer: I’m a fan of Pad­ma Venkatraman’s books. Each one has charmed me. I know I can always expect a read­ing expe­ri­ence unlike any I’ve had before. Her new book does not dis­ap­point. In A Time to Dance, teenaged Veda has already ded­i­cat­ed her life to dance, much to her mother’s frus­tra­tion.… more
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Gifted: Giving Thanks

Giv­ing Thanks:
Poems, Prayers, and Praise Songs for Thanks­giv­ing

edit­ed and with reflec­tions by Kather­ine Pater­son
illus­tra­tions by Pamela Dal­ton
Hand­print Books / Chron­i­cle Books, 2013
ISBN: 978−1−4521−1339−5 The sea­son when we focus on giv­ing thanks will quick­ly be here. If you are look­ing for a gift to take to your hosts, to give to your fam­i­ly, or to give to your­self, this book is ide­al.… more
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When Thunder Comes

Just in time for the Mar­tin Luther King remem­brance on Mon­day, J. Patrick Lewis has a chal­leng­ing new poet­ry book, When Thun­der Comes: Poems for Civ­il Rights Lead­ers. The title cap­tured my atten­tion and held me: Mr. Lewis is includ­ing me as a civ­il rights leader. Each of us. All of us. By includ­ing his read­ers, the U.S.… more
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Hitting a Home Run

It’s still April and I’m still feel­ing crazy about base­ball. The first Ron Koertge book I read was Shake­speare Bats Cleanup (pub­lished by Can­dlewick Press in 2006). He tried sev­er­al tricky writ­ing tasks in that book and I fin­ished it with a sense of admi­ra­tion for his skill as a writer. Koertge hit a triple. First, he wrote a verse nov­el that ful­ly engaged my curios­i­ty.… more
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Celebrating Earth Day

How did you cel­e­brate? How about your class­room? Your library? Your fam­i­ly? We went to Joyce Sid­man’s pub­li­ca­tion par­ty for Ubiq­ui­tous: Cel­e­brat­ing Nature’s Sur­vivors (Houghton Mif­flin), illus­trat­ed with linoleum block prints by Becky Prange, who lives in Ely, Min­neso­ta, and was trained as a sci­en­tif­ic illus­tra­tor. When Joyce explained how Becky cre­at­ed the amaz­ing time­line on the end­pa­pers of the book … well, there has to be a fair amount of genius in both the author and illus­tra­tor of this book.… more
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